EU urges five countries to codify anti-racism law

File photo. Far-right militants hold a banner reading 'United for Europe' as members of several fascizoid organizations march in central Sofia, Bulgaria, 16 February 2019. The annual march is commemorating General Hristo Nikolov Lukov, who was leader of the Union of Bulgarian National Legions (UBNL) and Minister of War during the World War II. [Vssil Donev/EPA/EFE]

The European Commission on Thursday (18 February) told five EU countries — Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Poland and Sweden — to quickly put a 2008 EU law against racism into their statutes.

The five need to “fully transpose” into national law the EU rules that criminalise “serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia”, the commission said in a statement, explaining it had sent formal letters to the respective capitals.

The EU executive already, in October last year, sent similar letters on the same matter to Estonia and Romania.

The commission noted that legislation in Belgium and Bulgaria did not identify racist or xenophobic motives as an aggravating element in crimes, and Bulgaria, Finland and Sweden failed to adequately criminalise certain hate speech, including the trivialisation of the Holocaust.

It also deemed that Finland had failed to allow racist crimes to be investigated even without a complaint by a victim.

It singled out Poland for not specifying “gross trivialisation” of international crimes and the Holocaust, and restricting the criminalisation of denial “only to cases where such crimes were committed against Polish citizens”.

The five countries have two months to respond to the letters. If they do not, the commission can start a procedure that could see them taken to the European Court of Justice.

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