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Promoting respect and diversity - Combating intolerance and hate

September 30th 2015

Regardless of ethnic origin, religion or belief, everyone living in the Union has a fundamental right to be treated equally, to be respected and to be protected from violence. This contribution paper by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) to the Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights provides evidence of the fact that such respect is lacking, and suggests ways in which governments can ensure they fulfil their duty to safeguard this right for everyone living in the EU.

The European Union continues to witness challenges to its core principles and values, through violence motivated by hate and intolerance, through terrorist attacks against soft targets such as the media and cultural or religious facilities, and through the discrimination and exclusion of those regarded as ‘different’ because of what they believe in or where they come from.

The EU has adopted legislation to tackle discrimination, hate speech and hate crime, and it has funded many large and small-scale transnational projects. Many Member States have also taken similar action. However, much more can be done at local level, particularly in school settings, with law enforcement, social partners and the media.

The fight against discrimination, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as efforts to respect and protect fundamental rights must be an ongoing effort in the face of new challenges.

This effort requires political will, efficient operational coordination and sharing of expertise and experience among all those involved, from EU bodies, through national, regional and local authorities, law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, educational authorities, statutory human rights and equality bodies, to service providers and civil society organisations.

Key facts

  • Evidence collected by FRA shows that racism, xenophobia and related intolerance are widespread, despite measures taken by government and civil society across the EU.
  • The social and political climate is growing ever more tolerant of extremist, racist and xenophobic agendas that exploit fears about youth unemployment and security in the face of terrorism and other geopolitical challenges.
  • Overall, this situation has a negative impact on social cohesion, as well as on respect for fundamental rights.
  • Political action is necessary to ensure full implementation of the EU’s existing
    legal framework in order to afford effective protection from discrimination and hate.

To improve the situation, measures should be taken to:

  • Improve victims’ access to justice, including steps to facilitate reporting of hate crime to the police and discrimination to equality bodies.
  • Improve hate crime recording by law enforcement and prosecution by criminal
    justice.
  • Ensure that relevant penalties and sanctions are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
  • Develop targeted media campaigns and training courses about the principles of
    equality and non-discrimination as well as combating racism and prejudice in daily life
    in order to empower a range of key people involved, such as justice officials, law
    enforcement, social partners and educators.
  • Support efforts to welcome the ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious diversity in
    our societies and make use of it to bolster social cohesion and growth.

For further information and to download the publication, please check the FRA website