Today, the Commission and the High Representative adopted a Communication on “No place for hate: a Europe united against hatred”. It is a call for action to all Europeans to stand up against hatred and speak up for tolerance and respect.
In recent weeks, we have seen scenes in Europe which we hoped we would never see again. Europe is experiencing an alarming increase in hate speech and hate crime and evidence shows that Jewish and Muslim communities are particularly affected.
With today’s Communication, the Commission and the High Representative are stepping up their efforts to fight hatred in all its forms, by reinforcing action across a variety of policies, including security, digital, education, culture and sport. This includes additional funding to protect places of worship and will be backed up by the designation of Envoys with an explicit mandate to maximise the potential of EU policies to combat hatred.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said: “Europe is a place where diverse cultural and religious identities are honored. Respect and tolerance are the founding values of our societies. Therefore we must stand up against antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, whenever we encounter it. The dignity and safety of each and every individual in our Union are paramount.”
High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell said: “Tragically, history repeats itself. Conflicts and disinformation worldwide are sowing the seeds of hatred. All persons must be protected and respected, no matter their religion or belief, nationality, gender, race or any other pretext misused to incite discrimination, hatred or violence. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we cannot make the same mistakes of the past. I urge the international community to join us in upholding human rights for everyone, everywhere, and to fight intolerance and prejudice.”
Protecting people and places
The protection of people and public spaces is a priority. The Commission will bring the call for proposals under the Internal Security Fund, initially scheduled for 2024, forward to 2023, putting particular focus on Jewish places of worship, with an increased budget. The PROTECT programme will be strengthened in 2024 with additional funding for the protection of public spaces and places of worship of all faiths, including an increase of €5 million to address the threats posed from rising antisemitism.
To protect against threats online, the Commission will push to finalise a reinforced Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online before February 2024 to build on the new horizontal obligations for online platforms in the Digital Services Act. It will also reinforce its cooperation with civil society organisations, experts, trusted flaggers, and public authorities to detect hate speech online.
Engaging society as a whole
The Commission’s Coordinators on anti-racism, on combatting antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, and on combatting anti-Muslim hatred have in the past played an important role in engaging communities and citizens. This work will now be further strengthened and the coordinators will be upgraded to Envoys, who will have a specific mandate to deepen coordination, including through specific EU funded projects, and to maximise the potential of EU policies to combat hatred, online and offline.
Knowledge and awareness are key to mutual respect and tolerance. The most powerful vectors of these values are integrated in everyday life – the media, education, culture and sport. To this end, the Commission will support trainings for journalists on upholding media standards and recognising hate speech and will take forward projects aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity in education, culture and sport.
The European Union will also step up support to fact checkers, within the EU and in the Arab speaking world.
Combating hatred is a global concern and international cooperation is a necessity. Working closely with those responsible for promoting rights at global, regional and country levels reinforces the credibility and the effectiveness of EU action within and outside the Union: the Commission and the High Representative will reinforce their engagement and networks at all levels, leveraging EU diplomatic work and concrete actions and external partnerships.
In early 2024, the Commission will organise a high-level anti-hatred conference with high-profile participants engaged in the fight against hate and discrimination. This will be followed with European dialogues for reconciliation, bringing together citizens from across the EU, in particular young people, with decision-makers, experts and members of the most affected communities. This process will culminate in recommendations on how to build bridges across fractured communities and bring to life the EU’s motto of living “United in diversity”.
Hate crime and hate speech go against the European fundamental values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, as enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty.
Over recent years, the Commission has worked on a set of laws and initiatives to promote and protect our common values and fundamental rights. The core piece of legislation is the 2008 Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia, which ensures that serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions.
Protecting Europe’s democracies from the threats and harmful effects of disinformation and information manipulation and interference, inclunding stemming from foreign actors, has become a strategic priority for the EU. Under the umbrella of the European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP), the Commission and the High Representative have developed a series of measures to tackle disinformation.
Through the enforcement of the digital Services Act (DSA), and the reinforced code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech, further decisive steps will be taken to ensure that what is illegal offline is also treated as such online. The DSA includes strict obligations for online platforms to counter illegal content. It will be applicable to all platforms from 17 February 2024, but it already applies to 19 designated very large online platforms and search engines. Under the DSA, the Commission had sent mid-October a formal request for information to X, META and TikTok, about the alleged spreading of illegal content and disinformation, and in particular the spreading of terrorist and violent content and hate speech.
To reinforce this framework, in December 2021, the Commission proposed to extend the current list of ‘EU crimes’ set out in the Treaties to hate speech and hate crime. The recent surge in hatred underlines the imperative for rapid adoption of an unanimous Council Decision, to protect our common EU values.
The Commission has already achieved most of the actions under its first EU Strategy on victims’ rights (2020-2025), to ensure that all victims in the EU can fully benefit from their rights under EU law. On 12 July 2023, the Commission adopted the proposal for a Directive amending the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive, the main horizontal instrument on victims’ rights. The proposal aims to further strengthen the rights of all victims of crime in the EU, including the rights of the most vulnerable victims. In October 2023, the Council finalised the first reading of the proposal.
The Communication on a Europe united against hatred is also a follow-up to the EU Anti-racism Action Plan 2020-2025, the Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life in the EU, as well as the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, the LGBTIQ Equality Stratgy 2020-2025, the Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021 – 2030 and the EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation 2020-2030.