Speech by the FRA Director at the 3279th meeting of the Council of the European Union (Justice and Home Affairs), adopting the Council conclusions on combating hate crime, Brussels, 6 December 2013.
Mr President, Ministers,
Thank you for your invitation to speak to you today on this vital issue.
Hate crime is a daily reality for many people in the EU. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights has provided solid and detailed evidence on the phenomenon, most recently on antisemitism and homophobia. And we are continuing our research on the topic.
We have interviewed and surveyed over 120,000 people across the EU about their experiences of bias-motivated crime, providing comparable and reliable figures about this phenomenon for the first time.
Anyone can be a victim of bias-motivated crime, but it predominantly affects the most vulnerable groups in our society. The Agency’s EU-wide minority survey indicates that almost a fifth of Roma and Sub-Saharan Africans have recently experienced assault, threat or serious harassment with a racial motivation.
And we must remember that such offences instil fear not only into the victims, but also entire communities. Our recent survey of Jewish populations in eight Member States found that 29% of respondents had considered emigrating because of safety concerns.
Our data therefore allows us insight into the true extent of hate crime, which remains widely underreported and unrecorded, and hence unpunished.
Numerous steps have already been taken to combat such crimes. The Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia provides a strong legal foundation to build upon.
However, our research shows that a far wider range of groups are at risk of being victimised. Therefore, legislation to address hate crime needs to be extended to include all forms of bias covered by the EU Charter’s article on non-discrimination. We note that many Member States have already taken this initiative.
Passing legislation to combat hate crime is of course key. But we see that implementation often lags behind. It is therefore crucial that national strategies are developed to combat hate crime, a fact that was underscored by the 400 participants in the Agency’s recent Fundamental Rights Conference.
Measures need to include more targeted training for police, prosecutors and judges to help them recognise, record and investigate offences with a bias motivation. At the same time, support needs to be made available that is sensitive to the needs of individual victims, as set out in the Victims Directive.
FRA offers its assistance and expertise to the Council in finding ways to combat hate crime and ensure respect for the fundamental rights of everyone living in the EU. I would like to thank the Lithuanian Presidency for putting this matter at the top of the EU justice agenda, and we look forward to supporting the incoming Greek Presidency in making further progress on this important issue.