Local and regional authorities can play a critical role in countering hate crime and hate speech, breaking down barriers to reporting incidents of hate crime, and preventing discrimination and exclusion. This is the key message delivered by the European Committee of the Regions during the 30 November plenary session, by adopting recommendations that support the European Commission's proposals to add hate speech and hate crime to the list of crimes recognised in EU policy.
The recommendations are contained in an opinion – "Extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crimes" – drafted by Aleksandra Dulkiewicz (EPP/PL), the Mayor of Gdańsk, whose predecessor Paweł Adamowicz was murdered in 2019 while going about his public services. The opinion warns that public authority figures – including local and regional politicians and holders and candidates for other public offices – are often the victims of hate speech and hate crime, in particular when defending the rights of refugees, migrants or LGBTIQ+ persons.
During the plenary debate, Mayor Dulkiewicz said: "The European Union needs to take decisive actions to counter hate crime motivated by racial hatred, prejudice based on nationality, ethnic origin, religion, sexual orientation, identity, age or disability. Let us all make sure that we treat each other with respect!"
Maite Pagazaurtundúa (ES/Renew Europe), Vice-Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament, said: "The opinion of CoR is important to make pressure to the Council to take a unanimous decision to approve the proposal of the European Commission to extend the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crime."
Regions and cities argue that the only answer to hate speech and hate crimes – a fundamental threat to a democratic society – is to create a comprehensive legal strategy for prevention and prosecution. They particularly stresses the role of anti-discrimination education programmes and propose that the topic of hate speech be included in the general education curriculum, encouraging regions that have competence in this area to take action in this direction. European citizens need to be educated and equipped with interpersonal skills in order not to overstep the boundaries of what is considered freedom of speech or freedom of expression, both online and in public spaces.
Regional and local leaders recognise that there can sometimes be a fine line between censorship and combating hate speech and therefore call on the EU's legislators to guarantee the right to freedom of expression should be guaranteed when developing legal solutions to combat hate speech and hate crime.
- The European Committee of the Regions, as the political assembly of local and regional politicians in the EU, on the initiative of the Polish delegation, unanimously adopted, on 7 February 2019, a resolution condemning hate speech and threats of all kinds against political leaders.
- The CoR in cooperation with the City of Gdansk and ICORN created the Mayor Paweł Adamowicz Award for local champions of freedom and solidarity and the fight against intolerance, oppression and xenophobia. The award honours the life and example of Paweł Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdańsk from 1998 until his murder on 13 January 2019. His murder was preceded by an upsurge of hate speech directed against him. The establishment of this Award is also recognition of everyone who works with courage and integrity against intolerance, radicalisation, hate speech, oppression and xenophobia, and who works to promote equal opportunities, social integration and fundamental rights.
Webstreaming: On the website of the CoR.
Tel. +32 (0) 473 84 39 86