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On 28 November 2008, the Council adopted the Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

Behind the Framework Decision

The aim of the Framework Decision pdf български (bg)czech (cs)dansk (da)Deutsch (de)eesti (et)ελληνικά (el)español (es)Français (fr)Gaeilge (ga)italiano (it)latviešu (lv)lietuvių (lt)magyar (hu)Malti (mt)Nederlands (nl)polski (pl)português (pt)română (ro)slovenčina (sk)slovenščina (sl)suomi (fi)svenska (sv) is to fight against racist and xenophobic speech and crime, by means of criminal law.

Due to the unfortunate rise of racism and xenophobia across the EU, this instrument is of key importance. The Commission is committed to monitoring closely its implementation at the national level.

One of the reasons behind this Framework Decision is the need to define a common criminal law approach across the EU to racism and xenophobia, so that the same behaviour constitutes an offence in all EU countries.

This way, effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties are provided for natural and legal persons having committed or being liable for such offences.

EU countries were obliged to transpose the Framework Decision into their national laws by 28 November 2010. The Commission published its first implementation report in January 2014pdf(82 kB) Choose translations of the previous link  together with an Annex pdf(167 kB) Choose translations of the previous link summarising national transposition measures and data on application of the Framework Decision submitted by the Member States.

The offences

Offences exist when directed against a group of persons (or a member of such a group) defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.

They include the following intentional actions:

  • publicly inciting to violence or hatred, including via the public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material;
  • publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivialising the crimes defined in Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal appended to the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, as well as crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as defined in Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, when the conduct is carried out in a manner likely to incite violence or hatred against such a group or members of a group.

The implications

With regard to natural persons, EU countries shall make these offences punishable with maximum criminal penalties of no less than between one and three years of imprisonment.

For legal persons, penalties shall include criminal or non-criminal fines, and may be supplemented with other penalties such as:

  • exclusion from public benefits or aid;
  • disqualification from performing commercial activities;
  • judicial supervision or judicial winding-up orders.

For criminal offences other than those covered by the Framework Decision, EU countries are obliged to ensure that racist and xenophobic motivation:

  • is considered as an aggravating circumstance ; or
  • may be taken into account in the determination of the penalties.

Expert Group

The Commission set up a group of governmental experts in 2009 in order to meet regularly with Member States to discuss issues related to the implementation of Framework Decision. The meetings of the expert group are aimed at assisting Member States in relation to the transposition and implementation of this legislation, as well as to encourage exchanges of good practices among the relevant authorities. In this respect the meetings have included presentations by special hate crime prosecutors, hate crime police units, national data-collection agencies, the Fundamental Rights Agency and the Council of Europe.