Each time a hate crime is committed European values are endangered said Cecilia Malmstrom EU Commissioner for Home Affairs on Tuesday. Malmstrom was speaking at a conference organised by the Fundamental Rights Agency. She added that we are seeing a shift in attitudes towards minorities.
“Hate crimes attack the core of what we believe in as Europeans,” Malmstrom said. “They undermine values that we hold dear, values we have enshrined in the Treaty on European Union. Respect for human dignity, freedom, equality, and human rights. Each and every time a hate crime is committed, these values are put in danger.”
The Commissioner said that hate crime is becoming increasingly visible all over Europe, pointing to the murder of anti-fascist campaigner Pavlos Fyssas in Greece by a self-confessed supporter of the far-right Golden Dawn party, the beating to death of a young man in Paris in the summer because he was gay and the young men marching in Hungary shouting abuse and attacking Roma people.
“I am concerned, not to say deeply worried, about hate crimes and the intolerance that feeds them,” Malmstrom added. “Across Europe, prejudice and hatred are motivating criminal behaviour.”
In 2011 almost one in every five sub-Saharan African was physically assaulted, harassed or threatened on account of their ethnic origin. Roma populations suffer similar levels of abuse and around 10% of North African and Turkish people reported being the victim of crimes with a racist motive in the same period. Over the past five years, around one in four lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans- or intersex people have been attacked or threatened with violence, the Commissioner pointed out.
Minorities no longer face abuse only in the streets but it has moved online as internet use has expanded.
“One in ten of all respondents to the Fundamental Rights Agency’s survey on anti-Semitism said that they had been subjected to offensive or threatening comments online. And almost 10% of harassment against LGBTI people takes place over the internet. Hate crimes against women are even more common online, with almost in in five of young women experiencing abuse in this way each year,” the Commissioner added.
Malmstrom pointed out that hate crimes have their roots in intolerance and ignorance. “I am therefore very concerned that we are not just seeing more hate crime being committed. We are also seeing a shift in attitudes towards minorities. During the last decade, attitudes towards Muslims, Jews, and Roma worsened, according to the European Values Study. The same is true of attitudes towards immigrants,” she said.
Malmstrom said that “there is a worrying lack of political courage and leadership on these issues. Rather than defend the contributions made by migrants and minorities in the EU, politicians too often join populist parties in blaming minorities for strains on their social security systems, for problems in their healthcare systems or for high unemployment.”
However Malmstrom also pointed out that there are signs of progress, including the adoption by the Council of Conclusions calling for more work in safeguarding fundamental values and the signing of a condemnation of racist insults aimed at Italian minister Cecile Kyenge by 17 minister in September.
“So, in the EU there is a growing sense that something must be done. The question, then, is what should we do?” pointed out Malmstrom as declarations are obviously not enough.
In 2011 the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network. Building on its work the Commission will soon present an EU Programme on Countering Violent Extremism with a Toolbox to help Member States in their efforts to prevent hate crimes at an early stage, Malmstrom revealed.