The EC has Demanded that Hate Speech become a Crime
Hate speech and hate crimes should be included in the EU's list of crimes.
This is said in an initiative from today presented by the European Commission.
The idea was announced by EC President Ursula von der Leyen in her 2020 State of the Union speech.
Hate speech and hate crimes have increased dramatically across Europe and have become a particularly serious and alarming phenomenon, both offline and online. Joint EU action is needed to address this pan-European challenge.
However, there is currently no legal basis for criminalizing these acts at EU level. The existing list of offenses in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) needs to be expanded. This will ensure minimum common rules on the methods of determining the offenses and sanctions applicable in all Member States.
This initiative is the first step in the process of expanding the list of crimes in the EU. The next step will be for member states to approve it before the Commission can present a legislative proposal.
The initiative provides evidence of the need to expand the list of crimes in the EU to include hate speech and hate crimes according to the TFEU criteria:
• The cross-border dimension. Online hate speech is spreading fast and is available to everyone everywhere. The ideologies behind hate speech and hate crimes can be developed internationally and quickly shared online. Hate crimes can be committed by networks of members from several countries;
• Acts as an area of crime. The EC considers hate speech and hate crimes to be an area of crime, as they have a specific common feature. This is hatred directed at individuals or groups of individuals who share (or perceive as sharing) the same protected characteristics;
• Acts as an area of particularly serious crime. These are particularly serious crimes, as they undermine the EU's common values and fundamental rights, as enshrined in the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. They have a detrimental effect on people, their communities and society as a whole;
• Development of crime. There is a steady increase in both phenomena due to different economic, social and technological changes. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the factors contributing to this increase;
• There is no alternative to expanding the list of crimes in the EU. Hate speech and hate crimes are criminalized to varying degrees in EU countries. Only the extension of the list of crimes in the EU to include these two acts can lead to an effective and comprehensive criminal law approach to them at EU level, as well as to the consistent protection of their victims.
Once approved by the European Parliament, the Council of the EU must unanimously adopt a decision identifying hate speech and hate crimes as a new area of crime according to the TFEU criteria.
The Commission may then propose the adoption of legislation establishing minimum rules on definitions and sanctions for hate speech and hate crimes to be adopted by the EP Parliament and the Council in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.
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