31st Mar 2020

EU states criticised for toothless anti-discrimination laws

EU capitals should step up efforts to combat racist crime, which continues its upward trend, the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency has said. It has also suggested that the main reason behind this growth is toothless anti-discrimination laws.

"It is obvious that the member states are applying the legislation quite unevenly. We must redouble our efforts to make sure that equality becomes a right in practice for everybody in the EU," Anastasia Crickley from the Vienna-based agency said on Tuesday (24 June), after publishing its 2007 report on racism and xenophobia in the EU.

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The report points to huge differences between member states when its comes to laws designed to crack down on racism. The gaps are linked to the level of sanctions as well as to the number of times they are actually applied.

Twelve EU states did not apply any sanctions over the course of the 2006-2007 period, the report says. These countries include the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain.

UK most effective

On the other hand, the UK has been praised for "the most effectively applied legislation" in the EU for fighting ethnic discrimination. London issued more sanctions from 2006-2007 than all other member states put together.

Bulgaria, Ireland, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Finland and Sweden are also among those whose sanctions are "relatively more frequent or dissuasive" compared to the rest of the EU.

"Effective sanctions are important to gain the trust of the victim population ... Without effective sanctions, it is unlikely that large parts of the population, companies and also legal practitioners are going to take anti-discrimination legislation very seriously," the report warns.

Brussels criticised 14 governments for failing to fully implement the Racial Equality Directive in 2007.

In addition, the fundamental rights agency also calls for an independent police complaints authority to be set up in each EU state - a body that would be in charge of registering and responding to abuses by law enforcement officers.

Between 2005 and 2006, a general upward trend in racist crime was seen in Germany, Ireland, Austria, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the UK.

France and the UK experienced an increased number of anti-semitic crimes, while Germany and France also saw more crime with an extremist right-wing motive.

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