Germany draws new battle lines in war on race-hate

The German EU Presidency has announced its plan to put the combating of racism and xenophobia throughout Europe at the top of its political agenda.

On 29 January 2007, the German Presidency announced its pledge to restart talks on the Framework Decision to combat racism and xenophobia, which were suspended in 2005. 

Under the then Luxembourg Presidency, the Framework Decision was on the verge of a compromise – Germany’s goal is to “attain minimum harmonisation of provisions on criminal liability for disseminating racist and xenophobic statements”. 

In its draft declaration entitled Outlawing Racism and Xenophobia Throughout Europe on the German EU Presidency website, Germany declared its aim to impose criminal liability on the following offences:

  • Public incitement to violence and hatred out of racist or xenophobic motives; 
  • racist or xenophobic agitation, and; 
  • denial or gross minimisation of genocide.

The maximum term of imprisonment for these offences would be one to three years – member states could make criminal liability dependent upon the determination by a national or international court that a known event in history constituted genocide, a crime against humanity, or a war crime.

The Framework Decision also provides that “racist or xenophobic motives may be considered an aggravating factor in other criminal offences (such as bodily injury), or that such motives may be taken into consideration by the courts in fixing the penalty”. 

“In view of Germany’s particular historic responsibility, the German EU Presidency has committed itself to returning the combating of racism and xenophobia throughout Europe to the political agenda,” according to the government’s statement.

However, the draft proposal indicated that there is no wish “to prohibit specific symbols, such as swastikas”, as Hungary, Denmark Italy and the UK opposed such a move in 2005, which contributed at that time to the shelving of plans for common EU rules against racism and xenophobia.

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