The European Commission said on Thursday that it had sent letters of formal notice to a series of member states, including Belgium and Sweden for failing to correctly transpose EU rules relating to the fight against racism and xenophobia.
The letter of formal notice is only the first step in the infringement procedure that the EU executive can launch against states that violate the rules or do not incorporate them in time into their national legislation. The state must respond to the letter in the months that follow, and if the disagreement remains, the procedure can lead to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
In this case, we are talking about a 2008 framework decision, which was to be transposed within two years. It aimed to ensure that across the EU, certain serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia would be punishable by “effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal sanctions”. The text defined certain behaviours that should be considered everywhere as a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.
Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Poland and Sweden are being called to order for various reasons. Belgium is criticized because its legal framework “does not guarantee that racist and xenophobic motivation is taken into consideration as an aggravating circumstance by national courts for all offenses committed”. They therefore do not guarantee “that hate crimes lead to effective and adequate prosecution,” the Commission said.
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