Recent crises are fuelling a worrying climate of fear and hatred, as well as total disregard for non-discrimination and equality rights in Europe, warn MEPs from Parliament's Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup
There are constant reports and statistics showing that hate crimes and speech are on the rise, resulting in individuals from minority groups living in fear of harassment and violence.
According to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights' hate crime data for 2014, which was released last November, civil society organisations reported 4259 bias-motivated incidents against Christians, Muslims, Jews, Roma, LGBTI people and people with disabilities whilst the UN has recently launched its Decade for People of African Descent because of the multiple, aggravated or intersecting forms of discrimination people of African descent face.
Research published in January by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust indicates that in the UK, 25 per cent of people witnessed at least one hate crime or incident in 2015. UK Home Office data showed an 18 per cent increase in hate crimes between 2014 and 2015.
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said crimes against Muslims in France had tripled, and that anti-Semitic assaults remain at a high level. Such acts, policies and practices violate fundamental rights and the rule of law.
There has also been a constant stream of concerning comments from politicians across Europe that fall short of the responsibilities they have as public figures and opinion leaders. In recent months, politicians have disseminated false information and engaged in hate speech for political gain. Actions such as these are all the more damaging when they are propagated by politicians.
We therefore have a responsibility, as politicians, to stand firm against nationalism and populism and reject discrimination in all its forms. This can be achieved by discussing solutions and implementing concrete actions, as well as amplifying voices of tolerance and respect.
An important element of this is promoting understanding and tolerance of different communities through the use of respectful language when referring to minorities, and to respect and uphold the dignity and rights of all individuals.
It is also why we will push for an amendment of the Rules of Procedure governing the European Parliament to ensure that MEPs are abiding by the EU’s values and that they don't engage in speech that contradicts established definitions of incitement to violence, hostility and discrimination, rooted in human rights/freedom of expression standards.
We will also call on Parliament to commission a study on the legal basis and the policy model to follow to write effective legislative amendments, so that EU hate crime legislation covers all grounds, including religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and more.
It is of utmost importance that the European Parliament moves forward on these two issues, and it will show our commitment to fighting racism and hate speech both in this house and in society.
Cécile Kashetu Kyenge is Co-President of ARDI
Soraya Post is Co-President of ARDI
Gérard Deprez is Co-President of ARDI
Cornelia Ernst is Co-President of ARDI
Jean Lambert is Co-President of ARDI
Fabio Massimo Castaldo is Vice-President of ARDI
Sajjad Karim is Vice-President of ARDI
Juan Fernando López Aguilar is Vice-President of ARDI