17th June 2013: Andrew Brons has received an answer to his further Question for Written Answer to the European Council on a simple definition for the terminology used by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights.
"I refer to your reply of 25 February 2013 to my Written Question E-011371/2012.
"You have not provided a clear definition for each of the words ‘racism’ and ‘xenophobia’, as I requested.
"You state that ‘the framework decision defines offences concerning racism and xenophobia and thus ensures that such behaviour constitutes an offence throughout the EU Member States’.
"Your answer refers only to offences that relate to ‘racism and xenophobia’.
"These terms are referred to often but are meaningless without a definition.
"Xenophobia means fear of strangers – a state of mind. How can you make a state of mind a criminal offence? Racism is sometimes used to mean hatred or incitement to hatred. However, it is often used to refer to words that neither express hatred nor incite it in others. What do you mean by it?
"These words also feature prominently in Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.
"Will you please provide an all-embracing definition of both these terms, so that my constituents will know exactly what is meant whenever the Council refers to these words in its documents?
"If the Council cannot define what it means when it employs these terms, how can the public do so, and how can they constitute criminal offences?
"Are these words deliberately undefined in order to frighten the public and politicians away from discussing immigration or ethnicity?"
The reply from the European Council stated:
"As stated in the Council's reply to the Honourable Member's question E-011371/12, Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law defines a common EU-wide criminal law and criminal justice approach to combating racism and xenophobia.
"This Framework Decision defines offences concerning racism and xenophobia and thus ensures that such behaviour constitutes an offence throughout the EU Member States. This serves as a minimum harmonisation of what is understood as such offences of "racism and xenophobia" across the EU.
"The definition of criminal offences concerning racism and xenophobia used in Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA extends only to the intentional conduct specified in Article 1 (1)(a)-(d). This is confirmed in recital 6: "This Framework Decision is limited to combating particularly serious forms of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law".
"Such offences are constituted by the following conduct, when done intentionally: "publicly inciting to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin". The same applies to doing so "by public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures or other material". This conduct has thus been defined in a clear fashion in accordance with the principle of legal certainty and cannot be said to be undefined or unclear."