Ministers lash out at equal opportunities' centre

Zuhal Demir, Belgium's brand new equal opportunities secretary, has lashed out at the interfederal centre for equal opportunities Unia. Ms Demir says that the centre should be there for everybody and that at the minute this is not the case.

The attack on Unia, a government sponsored centre, seems to be part of concerted action by the Flemish nationalist party N-VA. Liesbeth Homans, the Flemish minister charged with combatting poverty and another N-VA politician, told the weekly De Zondag that the centre was "not neutral, not objective and defended the interests of one target group, people of foreign heritage".

Ms Homans on Sunday announced that she was initiating an investigation into the centre's operations and was questioning its use. The announcement comes after an email from the centre to the Jewish publication Joods Actueel was leaked. An Unia official stated that "this was a case of crooked legal process" when somebody who had shouted that all Jews should have their throats slit was convicted.

Secretary of state Demir shares Ms Homans's concerns: "This isn't a centre for equal opportunities, but a centre for polarisation. Ms Demir points to a letter written to an Antwerp alderman with regard to the city's ban on burkini swimsuits in municipal swimming pools in which Unia claimed that the ban infringed anti-racism legislation. She also cited Unia's reaction to a refusal by a Brussels alderman to conclude a marriage because the bride wouldn't shake his hand. Unia was keen to claim that the alderman was "ethnocentric".

Zuhal Demir: "These are not the reactions I expect from Unia. They should defend the interests of everybody. Most of Unia's complaints deal with racism. There are only 5% about age and 4% about sexual preference."

In a reaction Unia says it can live with criticism, but that it should be fact-based.

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