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.
The Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia
The aim of the Framework Decision [50 KB] 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 2014 together with an Annex summarising national transposition measures and data on application of the Framework Decision submitted by the Member States.
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.
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.
High Level Group on combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of Intolerance
On 14 June 2016, the European Commission launched the High Level Group on combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of Intolerance to step up cooperation and coordination, to better prevent and combat hate crime and hate speech on the ground. Opening the first meeting of the High Level Group, Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender said, "Over recent years, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance have been growing and spreading across Europe at a toxic speed. For the first time today, all actors are sitting around the same table. We will use this High Level Group as a platform to discuss concrete ways to prevent and counter hate speech and hate crime." It brings together Member States authorities, the European Parliament, civil society organisations, community representatives, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and relevant international bodies such as the Council of Europe, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE-ODIHR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The High Level Group will help maximise synergies between all stakeholders and develop common targeted responses to tackle effectively all forms of racism and intolerance. It will set up a common methodology to record and collect hate crimes data. It will also monitor the implementation of the Code of Conduct presented by the Commission two weeks ago and signed by IT companies to ensure that illegal hate speech online can be effectively countered. For more information see Věra Jourová's speech opening the High Level Group