The European Union at last has an agreement for an anti-racism law, but the bloc remains divided, and earlier proposals were watered down.
The framework decision intended to help counter racism includes a provision to punish incitement to hatred or violence based on colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin by 1-3 years in prison. This comes after almost six years of on-and-off discussion in the EU’s institutions. Countries’ rules on freedom of expression are allowed to take precedence.
Following the justice ministers’ meeting, Amnesty International’s enthusiasm was muted. The director of its EU office, Dick Oosting said: “Any attempt to counter racism by pointing at individuals who go way beyond the pale will be limited. I think the State has much more an obligation to set the example and not just, however proper that is too, to point at individuals who are overtly racist.”
National laws against Holocaust denial will stand, but as with Nazi symbols there will be no EU-wide ban.
Newspaper cartoons offending Muslims last year further highlighted divisions in Europe about how far freedom of expression can go.