This year's theme is "Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe".
What is the Colloquium meant to achieve?
The overall aim of the Colloquium is to improve mutual cooperation and greater political engagement for the promotion and protection of fundamental rights in Europe. It will seek to strengthen dialogue between the EU and international institutions, policy makers, academia and civil society, and deepen the understanding of challenges for fundamental rights on the ground. A key objective is to come up with concrete ideas and initiatives to better address fundamental rights issues.
Building on the public consultation carried out in April and May 2015, participants will explore concrete ways to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred. They will focus on projects, policies and legislation to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred with a specific focus on hate crime, hate speech and discrimination.
The Colloquium is an opportunity for dialogue between institutions, Member States, local authorities, civil society organisations, religious and community leaders, international organisations, academics, the media, and philosophers. Participants will reflect together on the underlying reasons for the increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in Europe, and their impact on people's lives.
How big a concern is hate crime and intolerance in Europe? Why is there the need for a Colloquium on this topic?
Tackling antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred is a responsibility for society at large. Participants will explore the means to foster a culture of inclusive tolerance and respect in the EU.In recent years, the EU has witnessed a worrying increase in antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crime and intolerance.
Three quarters of respondents (76%) to a 2013 Fundamental Rights Agency survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews felt that antisemitism has worsened over the past five years in the country where they live. Almost three quarters of respondents (73%) said that antisemitism online has become worse over the last five years. The terrorist attacks in several EU countries have added to the growing security concerns of Jews in Europe. A survey by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency shows that around 75% of Jewish people do not report antisemitic harassment to the police.
Anti-Muslim hatred is also on the rise, with a worrying increase in verbal and physical violence. The findings of the Eurobarometer published on 1 October indicate that Muslims suffer from the lowest levels of social acceptance among religious groups, with only 61% stating that they would be fully comfortable with a colleague at work being Muslim, and only 43% being fully comfortable if their adult children had a relationship with a Muslim person.
The current refugee crisis has seen a great deal of negative language and hate speech resurfacing about those arriving, with far right movements and populist discourses exploiting the situation. Worrying verbal and physical attacks, including online hate speech targeting asylum seekers and refugees have been reported in a number of countries. The German Ministry of Interior recorded as many as 202 attacks on housing for asylum-seekers in the first half of 2015 alone. A sharp rise in xenophobic comments on social media platforms has also been observed.
The Colloquium focuses both on antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred. Although different in origins, history and manifestations, these two phenomena are marked by a worrisome increase of hate incidents in recent years. There is a worrisome increase of hate crime incidents in Europe, and the experience gathered in the Colloquium could be used to combat other forms of hatred and intolerance.
How does the Colloquium fit in with the Commission's work to tackle hate speech and hate crime?
Promoting tolerance, diversity and social cohesion, addressing discrimination in all its forms and combatting racist and xenophobic crime are key elements of EU policies which need to operate together in synergy.
In the aftermath of the Paris and Copenhagen attacks, the EU presented the European Security Agenda which addresses radicalisation – offline and online - including antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate incidents.
The Commission is currently assessing the transposition and implementation of the EU Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia, which treats the denial of the Holocaust as a criminal offence across the EU. Currently only 13 Member States have fully transposed this provision of the Framework Decision.
The Commission will continue the dialogue with stakeholders on how to counter hate crime and discrimination in Europe. We need to address the roots of racism, including through education and by fostering a culture of tolerance and respect in Europe.
A 2015 Eurobarometer shows widespread support for measures in the workplace to foster diversity. A large majority of respondents also agreed on the importance of education, including information about diversity in terms of religion or beliefs (80%) and ethnic origin (81%).
Following the Colloquium the Commission will explore the possibility of new actions at EU, national and local level, with the contribution of civil society and other key actors, such as:
- enforcing EU laws on hate crime, victims' rights and non-discrimination;
- training judges, prosecutors, police and local authorities;
- promoting diversity and strenghtening non-discrimination rules.
The Colloquium will also examine how to improve reporting of discrimination and hate crime incidents, fighting online hate speech by working with IT companies, and funding projects by civil society, education and media actors to foster tolerance and respect.
What is the legal basis for EU policies on fundamental rights?
Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union states that: "The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities". The Treaty adds that "These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between men and women must prevail".
The non-discrimination principle, including on grounds of religion or belief, is also firmly anchored in the Treaties (Article 19 TFEU) and Article 21 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.
- The EU Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law
The Framework Decision obliges the EU's Member States to penalise hate speech, i.e. the public incitement to violence and hatred based on race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin as well as hate crimes that have a racist or xenophobic motivation. In terms of hate speech, the Framework Decision applies both to the online as well as to the offline world.
The Race Equality Directive, adopted in 2000, is the key piece of EU legislation for combating discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin. Directive 2000/43/EC lays down a framework for combating discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin in employment, social protection, health care, education and in access to goods and services, including housing.
Equal treatment and non-discrimination in employment and occupation are guaranteed by the Employment Equality Directive, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation. The Directive, adopted in 2000, complements the Race Equality Directive expanding the scope of application of the protection against discrimination in the field of employment.
Article 6 of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive states that Member States shall ensure that services provided by media service providers under their jurisdiction do not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality. The Directive also concerns broadcasts which originate in non-EU countries and which are transmitted into the EU.
The Victims' Rights Directive was adopted in 2012 to enhance the EU legal framework in the field of victims' protection and assistance. Member States have until 16 November 2015 to implement the Directive in national legislation. This Directive provides the victims of crime with common procedural rights, with victims of hate crime receiving particular attention.
- Commission proposal: The Equal Treatment Directive
The European Commission submitted a proposal for a Directive on Equal Treatment in 2008, which would prohibit discrimination based on age, religion and belief, sexual orientation and disability in the areas of social protection, education and access to goods and services. The Equal Treatment Directive will fill the existing gaps in the EU anti-discrimination legislation and expand the level of protection against discrimination based on age, religion, sexual orientation and disability outside the employment field. The Equal Treatment Directive is currently under discussion in the Council of Ministers.
How does the Commission ensure this legislation is enforced?
In January 2014, the Commission adopted an implementation report on the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, which showed that several legislative gaps in Member States still exist. The Commission has started bilateral dialogues with all the Member States in order to ensure a correct transposition and a full implementation of this legal instrument. The exercise is expected to be completed by December 2015.
Since 1 December 2014, in line with Protocol 36 of the Treaties, the Commission is able to launch infringement proceedings against Member States for failure to transpose the Framework Decision.
National courts have the competence to determine, according to the circumstances and context of each case, whether incitement to racist or xenophobic violence or hatred can be proved. The Commission does not replace the criminal judge at national level, nor the law enforcement authorities in charge of recording hate crime incidents, encouraging reporting by the victims and proactively investigating such cases.
A broad study of the current legal and practical state of play with regard to harmful or illegal online content, including hate speech, is ongoing as part of the Commission's Digital Single Market Strategy. A public consultation on the role of internet platforms, including their role in tackling illegal content, was launched on 24 September.
How much EU funding is dedicated to combatting antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred?
For the period 2014-2020, the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme with a proposed budget of €439 million will support in particular the development of efficient monitoring and reporting mechanisms for racist and xenophobic hate speech on the internet and hate crime as well as the exchange of best practices to prevent and combat racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance focusing in particular on criminal law tools. In 2015, projects amounting to €4,017,826 are being co-financed in these areas.
For the period 2014-2020 the Justice Programme (€378 million) will promote judicial cooperation in civil and criminal matters, helping to train judges, prosecutors and other legal professionals. One of the priorities for 2014 is to support effective and consistent implementation of the Framework Decision on the fight against racism and xenophobia through judicial training.
What is the European Commission doing to tackle hate speech online?
Under the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, Member States have to ensure that audiovisual media services provided under their jurisdiction do not contain incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality. The e-Commerce Directive foresees that, when illegal content is identified, Internet intermediary service providers should take effective action to remove it. But the removal of illegal content can be slow and complicated while content that is actually legal can be taken down erroneously. This is why the Commission is now consulting on updating this framework.
The Commission is also currently analysing whether the overall level of protection afforded by the AVMSD is still relevant, effective and fair, in relation to, among other topics, the prohibition of hate speech. More attention will be put into ensuring that current legislation is properly implemented and enforced. This should boost the fight against hate-speech and enable effective criminal investigations and prosecutions.
For more information:
Press release: IP/15/5737
Full programme available here
Fundamental Rights Agency studies:
- Antisemitism: Overview of data available in the European Union
- Promoting respect and diversity - Combating intolerance