A EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance

Every day across Europe, many people are harassed, threatened or assaulted verbally or physically, or are victims of crime because of who they are, be it on grounds of their ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, social status or other characteristics. Hate speech and incitement to hatred and intolerance targeting ethnic, religious and other minorities is also widespread in the public debate, including on online platforms, social media and chats.

The High Level Group is intended as a platform to support EU and national efforts in ensuring effective implementation of relevant rules and in setting up effective policies to prevent and combat hate crime and hate speech. This is done by fostering thematic discussions on gaps, challenges and responses, promoting best practice exchange, developing guidance and strengthening cooperation and synergies between key stakeholders. The focus of the High Level Group includes targeted work on two priority areas, in relation to which specific sub-groups were set up:

- countering hate speech online, including through the implementation of a Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, agreed by Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft* and YouTube with the European Commission in May 2016. Detailed information on this work may be found here.

- improving methodologies for recording and collecting data on hate crime, through expert discussions carried out under the supervision of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. Detailed information on this work may be found here.

Through the High Level Group, the European Commission also facilitates and supports the organisation of workshops and seminars at national level or at the initiative of civil society organisations.

The Commission also supports concrete projects to prevent and counter racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance under the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme. Through the current annual work programme, the Commission is making available 7 million euros, including for awareness raising activities, campaigns and projects aimed at developing counter and alternative narratives to prevent Antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred, xenophobic or anti-migrant sentiment, homophobia and transphobia and other forms of intolerance. For further information, please see our page  dedicated to EU initiatives and funding to promote tolerant, inclusive and pluralistic societies.

All this work is also aimed at feeding into the development of broader EU policies on preventing and countering discrimination and intolerance, including racism and xenophobia, Antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred,  homophobia and transphobia and antigypsyism.

* Microsoft-hosted consumer services, as relevant

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Why a High Level Group?

The EU is equipped with specific legislation  to combat certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, as well as legislation on victims' rights that protects all victims, including victims of hate crime.

But laws on paper are not enough. There is an urgency to step up efforts to prevent and counter more effectively the spread of intolerance and hatred, enforce criminal laws on hate crime and hate speech, improve data collection and monitoring of trends, raise awareness and provide victims of hate crime and hate speech with the necessary support and assistance. The new EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance was set up by the European Commission in 2016 as part of its engagement to give political impetus and improve responses to all manifestations of hatred and intolerance in the EU and its Member States. The creation of this High Level Group of experts built on previous expert cooperation between the European Commission and Member States and follows up to the conclusions of the 2015 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights hosted by the European Commission.

Under the lead of the European Commission, the High Level Group regularly meets in Brussels bringing together experts from Member States, civil society and community-based organisations, EU agencies and in particular the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, as well as international organisations including the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe. The Commission's Coordinator on combating Antisemitism and the Coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred participate to its sessions.

As an expert group of the European Commission, the High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance is listed in the Register of Commission expert groups and other similar entities, where detailed information on its activities can be accessed.  

Key activities

  • Second meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, Brussels 7 December 2016
  • Thematic seminar: Working Party on minimal standards for hate crime training, Bratislava 1-2 December 2016The seminar was organised by the Slovak Presidency of the EU with the support of the European Commission.
  • Inaugural meeting of the sub-group on methodologies on recording and collecting data on hate crimes, Vienna 18-19 October 2016
  •  Inaugural meeting of the sub-group on countering hate speech online, Brussels 5 October 2016
  • Launch meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism,  xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, Brussels 14 June 2016.

           Read the full speech of Commissioner  Jourová here.

With a very broad and diverse participation, the launch meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance was marked by distinguished keynote speeches including by the EU Justice Commissioner Ms VÄ•ra Jourová, the Member of the European Parliament and co-President of the Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) Ms Soraya Post and the Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Mr Michael O'Flaherty. The meeting was an opportunity for all stakeholders to discuss the role, mandate and objectives of the High Level Group. Representatives from all Member States, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Council of Europe, OSCE and the UN, alongside many civil society organisations, also pointed at key challenges on which the Group should focus its work. In the afternoon, thematic discussions on combating Antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred were led by the Commission Coordinator on combating Antisemitism and the Commission Coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred, as a follow up to the 2015 Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.