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.

A number of practical guidance tools have already resulted from this work, in key areas such as hate crime training, access to justice, support and protection for victims of hate crime and hate speech and hate crime recording. A guidance note on the practical application of the EU Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia has also been adopted on the occasion of its 10-year anniversary, to help national authorities address common issues of practical application of these rules and ensure effective investigation, prosecution and sentencing of hate crime and hate speech on the ground.

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 (FRA). Detailed information on this work may be found here.

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. 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.

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.  

* Microsoft-hosted consumer services, as relevant

News

Key activities

  • The sixth meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance took place in Vienna on 16 and 17 October 2018.  Introduced by high-level keynote speeches, including by the UN Under-Secretary General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng, the meeting, co-organized with and hosted by the Austrian Ministry of Interior on behalf of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU, offered the opportunity for a joint reflection on the future of the High Level Group: building on the exchanges and guidance developed so far and on the support offered by relevant partners, including FRA, CEPOL, ODHIR and ECRI, ways to intensify practical cooperation and information exchange at expert level in key areas were discussed, in order to inform future reflections on how to achieve further concrete progress on the ground in the fight against hate speech and hate crime. The meeting also included an exchange of views on the upcoming draft guidance note on the practical application of the EU Framework Decision on combating racism, as well as working sessions on countering hate speech online, hate crime recording and data collection, and on shared problems and promising practices on investigating and prosecuting hate speech and hate crime. In her opening address, Commissioner Jourová expressed appreciation for the important work of the Group and reaffirmed her commitment to ensure that all the progress made, which is part of the Commission's broader efforts on fostering equality and dignity for all, can be built on to guide future efforts.  (Photos: BMI/Gerd Pachauer)

"Hate crimes constitute one of the clearest early-warning

signs for atrocity crimes: they must not remain unchallenged",

said UN Under-Secretary General Adama Dieng

in his keynote address to the High Level Group

 

  • The fifth meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance took place in Brussels on 13 and 14 June 2018.  The meeting once again registered a very broad and diverse participation, counting 120 participants including Member States delegations, more than forty civil society organisations as well as representatives of EU institutions, agencies, the Council of Europe's Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The meeting's plenary discussions were devoted to an in-depth exchange on how to improve practices of investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, providing insights on existing challenges and good practices, based on the experience of Member States, civil society organisations, legal professionals and international monitoring bodies. Member States also discussed progress in their work on improving hate crime recording, thanks to the country workshops facilitated by the EU Agency of Fundamental Rights (FRA), with the help of ODIHR, and FRA presented a new report providing a comparative overview of national hate crime recording and data collection practices. In her opening remarks, Director-General of Justice and Consumers Tiina Astola praised the work of the High Level Group and underlined how important it is that all Member States have in place a strong legal framework and ensure its effective implementation in practice. In this respect, she announced the intention by the Commission of working in the coming months on a comprehensive guidance document on the practical application on the ground of the EU Framework Decision on combating racism, to give further impetus to national authorities to address difficulties and challenges they face in translating their obligations into practice.

  • The meeting was also an opportunity for a debrief, by civil society organisations, on the 2018 EU Roma Week and the first-ever EU People of African Descent Week. In that context, DG JUST presented the draft conclusions papers on Afrophobia and on antigypsyism as the outcome of the thematic discussions held at the meeting of the High Level Group of December 2017, with a view to their finalisation and publication after the summer. 

Gabriela Hrabaňová, Director of the European Roma Grassroots Organisations Network (ERGO)

Sarah Chander, Advocacy Officer at the European Network Against Racism (ENAR)

  • The fourth meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance took place in Brussels on 5 December 2017.  After an exchange on progress made in terms of legal and policy responses to hate crime at national level, Member States' experts agreed on the key guiding principles on hate crime recording drawn up by the Subgroup on methodologies for recording and collecting data on hate crime led by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. The principles are deemed to be tested and implemented through country workshops and activities in the coming months, and will be built upon by the Subgroup for its future work on recording and data collection methodologies. The plenary session of the meeting, attended by almost forty civil society organisations as well as representatives of EU institutions – including MEPs Cécile Kyenge and Soraya Post, who were invited to deliver keynote interventions to the plenary session -, of the Council of Europe and of the UN Office for the High Commissioner on Human Rights, was devoted to focus discussions on afrophobia and antigypsyism - two worrying trends which exemplify how important it is to develop a comprehensive approach made up of coherent but also diversified legislative and policy responses to discrimination, exclusion, prejudice, stereotyping and manifestations of intolerance, taking into account the specific challenges faced by different communities and groups. Discussions built on the findings of the second European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
  • "The work done by the High Level Group's work is more important than ever in times of growing verbal and physical violence fuelled by hatred.", Commissioner Jourová said after opening the plenary session of the meeting,. "Not only has the Group contributed to monitor and turn into practice commitments agreed by the IT industry to curb the spread of hate speech on the internet, they have also contributed to drafting up key guiding principles on hate crime recording as well as practical guidelines on training police and judges on hate crime and on providing justice, protection and support to hate crime victims – with more to come on improving hate crime investigation and prosecution. I expect Member States to build on these achievements to ensure better implementation of EU and national law on the ground. I intend to consolidate the Group's important work as another step forward towards further progress on tackling all forms of racism and intolerance in Europe".
  • The third meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance took place in Brussels on 31 May -1 June 2017.  The meeting, opened by Commissioner Vera Jourová, was the opportunity for a discussion on the progress made in the implementation of the Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online one year after its adoption (results of the second monitoring exercise). Discussions also included an in-depth exchange on ensuring justice, protection and support of victims of hate crime and hate speech, as well as a debrief from the sub-group on methodologies for recording and collecting data on hate crime (presentation and discussion on a draft paper outlining a proposal for core elements for an appropriate methodology to record and collect data on hate crime). The Group was also debriefed on the joint day of action against Antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination, organised by OSCE ODIHR in cooperation with the Commission Coordinator on combating Antisemitism, the Commission Coordinator on combating anti-Muslim hatred and discrimination and the European Parliament ARDI intergroup.
  • The second meeting of the sub-group on methodologies on recording and collecting data on hate crimes took place in Vienna on 26 April 2017.  
  • The second meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance took place in Brussels on 7 December 2016. The meeting included a presentation by Commissioner Vera Jourová of the progress made in the implementation of the Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online (results of the first monitoring exercise). Discussions also included an in-depth exchange on standards, practices and challenges on hate crime training for law enforcement and judicial authorities as well as a debrief on the and a debrief from the sub-group on methodologies for recording and collecting data on hate crime. Issues around anti-migrant hatred, antigypsyism and ethnic profiling were also touched upon
  • Thematic seminar: Working Party on minimal standards for hate crime training, Bratislava 1-2 December 2016. The seminar was organised by the Slovak Presidency of the EU with the support of the European Commission.
  • The inaugural meeting of the sub-group on methodologies on recording and collecting data on hate crimes took place in Vienna on 18-19 October 2016.

  • The inaugural meeting of the sub-group on countering hate speech online took place in Brussels 5 October 2016.
  • The launch meeting of the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance took place in Brussels on 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 Vĕra 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.