Violence motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance or homo/transphobia – what we call hate crimes, are not just terrible offences against the individual, but also against our democracy. Violence and hate crimes are crimes against the foundation of our society: the equal value of all human beings. I am in Vilnius today to participate in a conference on hate crimes organised by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The conference brings together over 300 participants with various backgrounds: politicians from the national and European level, representatives of international organisations, agencies and NGOs. The Lithuanian Presidency has put the issue of hate crimes onto the agenda for the next JHA-Council meeting in December and this conference is a run-up to that discussion.
Data from the FRA shows that a large number of victims of hate crimes either do not report the crime, or if they do, do not receive sufficient support from the authorities. Furthermore, FRA and others report about a high frequency of hate crimes. For example, in 2011 almost one out of five sub-Saharan Africans were physically assaulted, harassed or threatened on account of their ethnic origin. Roma populations in EU-Member States suffer similar levels of abuse. During the last five years, approximately one in four lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans- or intersex people state that they have been attacked or threatened with violence. Also responding to a recent survey, anti-Semitic hate crime was experienced by one in every four Jewish persons, and about every second Jewish person responding feared becoming the victim of one.
The EU was founded after Europe having lived through the atrocities during World War II. All of us have a duty in ensuring that no one is discriminated against, or being subject to violence because of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender or sexual orientation. Too few are standing up against intolerance today. We need political leaders who do not flirt with populism and xenophobia. Within my area of responsibility, we have started the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) – a network of experts working against radicalisation, including hate on the internet. Building on the work performed by RAN, 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.
You can read my speech here.