The European Commission has recognised that intolerance, racism, xenophobia and discrimination are on the rise within the European Union. Hate speech, discrimination and intolerance have terrible consequences for individual victims, not only that they also challenge the values on which the EU was founded. Against this background, the European Commission has stepped up its efforts and activities to build a concerted European response to this phenomenon, including by ensuring that relevant EU legislation is fully transposed and implemented at the national level in EU member States.

As part of that effort, in March 2019, the European Commission published a Staff working document entitled ‘Countering racism and xenophobia in the EU: fostering a society where pluralism, tolerance and nondiscrimination prevail.’ The paper provides an overview of progress achieved and outlines some areas that merit further attention. It outlines a ‘comprehensive policy approach to foster equality and non-discrimination, as well as to prevent and fight against all forms of racism and xenophobia.’ This includes both ‘horizontal measures’ to address the underlying issues associated with discrimination and intolerance, as well as policy responses to the specific challenges faced by particular groups or communities.

Instrumental to this work is the EU High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, which provides practical guidance tools to help member States implement the EU’s framework on racism and xenophobia. In the future, expert-working groups will be convened to focus on issues such as training for law enforcement officers, data collection and recording, and victim support.