Monday

17th Jun 2019

EU ministers decide against EU ban on Nazi symbols

A discussion on whether to ban Nazi and other racist symbols at the EU level was shelved on Thursday (24 February) after member states failed to reach agreement.

EU justice ministers meeting in Brussels decided to put a halt to the debate fearing that it would lead to a further delay of an EU law combating racism and xenophobia, which has been stuck in the legislative pipelines since 2003.

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The move to ban nazi symbols at the EU level - prompted by Prince Harry, a member of the UK Royal family, sporting a swastika at a fancy dress party last month - was opposed predominantly by the UK and Denmark.

The UK argued, according to a council diplomat, that to ban such symbols was not to tackle the heart of the problem.

Cyprus was among the member states fighting hardest to have a mention of certain symbols arguing that, without it, the legislation would be pointless.

However, after a long discussion the ministers agreed that the ten new member states would now be given time for their national parliaments to look at the anti-racism proposal.

Delay at the EU level

The proposed law says that member states should make punishable "public incitement to discrimination, violence or hatred against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin".

It also calls for punishment of "public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes".

The law was first proposed in 2002, well before the new member states joined, but was blocked by Italy.

Diplomats say that Italy on Thursday again called for the points that it raised at the time to be considered.

Rome's concerns are to do with issues of freedom of speech - but it also defended having racist symbols in the proposal.

One diplomat said the approach meant they were arguing from both ends of the spectrum.

Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU Presidency, is concerned that the legislation is about to be delayed at the EU level for much longer.

It warned during the meeting that if it failed to reach agreement during its presidency then the UK, which holds the Presidency next, may also fail.

Member states are set to tackle the issue at the expert level next week.

Germany considering ban on neo-Nazi party

Regional ministers are to ask the German Constitutional Court to ban the neonazi National Democratic Party, but the government is reluctant to join in.

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German justice minister Brigitte Zypries has called for a Europe-wide initiative to tackle right-wing extremism to be put in place and plans to push ahead with the idea using her country's current presidency of the EU.

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