There is no place for hate crime or hate speech in Europe, if the EU wants to ensure an open and tolerant society. This was the view of FRA’s Director, Michael O’Flaherty, at the launch of the EU’s High Level Group on combating racism and xenophobia in Brussels on 14 June.
He spoke of how racism, xenophobia and hate crime threaten the values of the EU and its Member States and how they can corrode the fabric of society. He acknowledged the great strides that have been made legally and institutionally in combating these phenomena citing various EU and UN fundamental rights instruments. Nonetheless, open and direct demonstrations of intolerance are increasing.
To counter this, the Director outlined four areas that would help: 1) strengthening human rights education; 2) greater rights awareness; 3) acceptance that everyone needs to be tolerant of others and not leave minority communities to tackle racism on their own; and 4) working harder to better and fully integrate migrants and minorities groups into society.
He spoke of FRA’s longstanding efforts to tackle hate crime and the body of evidence it has amassed over the years. He welcomed the creation of this vital high level group and looks forward to FRA’s role in chairing a dedicated group on hate crime recording. This group will build on the Agency’s Hate Crime Working Party that united representatives from all Member States on finding ways to improve the recording and reporting of hate crime that ultimately led to a compendium of good practices for others to use.
The importance of sound data is crucial for policy makers to help them shape informed and targeted measures to combat intolerance. That’s why FRA will play an important role in the high level group as it helps guide Member States to develop shared mechanisms and principles for collecting and recording hate crime data.
The European Commission’s High Level Group will comprise of representatives from Member States, civil society organisations, and community organisations, as well as relevant EU agencies and international organisations active in this area. The group aims to foster the exchange and dissemination of best practices between national authorities, and to encourage concrete discussions on how to fill existing gaps, and better prevent and combat hate crime and hate speech.