Measures to combat all forms of intolerance

People across the EU continue to be targeted by racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance just because of their race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, social status or other characteristics.

The EU rejects and condemns all forms of racism and intolerance, as they are incompatible with the values and principles upon which the EU is founded.

A broad set of rules exist at the EU level which contribute better tackling different forms and manifestations of racism and intolerance, in particular the Framework Decision on combating certain forms of expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

Relevant pieces of EU legislation to combat racism, xenophobia and other kinds of intolerance include:

  • the Victims Rights Directive which establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of all victims of crime, paying particular attention to victims who have suffered a crime committed with a bias or discriminatory motive
  • the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, banning incitement to hatred in audiovisual media services and the promotion of discrimination in audiovisual commercial communications
  • legislation in the area of non-discrimination, in particular the Race Equality Directivee prohibiting discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin in several walks of life, and the Employment Equality Directive prohibiting discrimination on several grounds in the field of employment
  • legislation prohibiting discrimination during border controls

Building on the existing legal framework, the EU has introduced and initiated a broad range of measures to better prevent and combat racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.

These measures are aimed at supporting national authorities and civil society in stepping up efforts to prevent and counter the spread of intolerance and hatred, better enforce laws on discrimination, hate crime and hate speech, provide victims with the necessary support and assistance, raise awareness, improve data collection and the monitoring of trends.

Collection and exchange of information

The European Commission facilitates the exchange of information and good practice through several networks and expert groups.

In particular, the EU High Level group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, which builds on previous expert cooperation between the European Commission and EU countries, was set up by the European Commission as part of its engagement to improve responses to hatred and intolerance in the EU following the 2015 Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights.

Other relevant platforms of exchange and cooperation include

Furthermore, the European Commission supports and closely cooperates with the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) which collects and analyses data and carries out research on fundamental rights providing assistance and expertise at EU and national level, including in the areas of non-discrimination, racism, intolerance and hate crime.

Targeted measures to address online hatred

As well as action on preventing and combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, the EU is also devoted to preventing and countering the spread of online hatred.

Hate speech online not only harms targeted groups and individuals, it also stops citizens from speaking out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in the online environment. It has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms.  

The European Commission's action in this area is aimed at protecting freedom of expression by helping users to freely express their opinions online without the fear of being attacked out of bias based on race, colour, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability or other characteristics. It also aims to ensure that EU and national legislation on combating hate speech is better enforced in the online environment across the EU.

Among the main measures taken in this area, the European Commission agreed with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube  a Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online to help users notifying illegal hate speech in this social platforms, improve the support to civil society as well as the coordination with national authorities. The European Commission closely monitors the progress made in the implementation of the code and regularly reports on its activities in this area.

Financial support

The European Commission provides financial support to national authorities and civil society in this area through the rights, equality and citizenship programme.

Other programmes provide funding opportunities in areas which can contribute to the fight against racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance: