The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/06/02jai-rx/
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No agreement on the framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia at the Justice and Home Affairs Council
European ministers of Justice and Home Affairs did not reach an agreement on the framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia during their meeting in Luxembourg on 2 June.
During the press conference, Luc Frieden, President in office of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, underlined the importance the Luxembourg Presidency has attached to this issue. "This framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia was proposed by the Commission in November 2001, we are now June 2005. We had a very political discussion about that framework decision today. I think this is less a legal document but rather more a political document," he said.
"The outcome of this discussion can be interpreted in two different ways: the positive thing is that we all agree that racism and xenophobia go against the fundamental values in which we believe as political leaders, as democratically elected leaders of Europe. The other thing of course is to say that we have different ideas in Europe about freedom of expression. In some countries that means that freedom of expression knows almost no boundaries, certainly no boundaries imposed through criminal law sanctions. For others freedom of expression does have limits. Those limits that freely elected parliaments put into the criminal code, where the interests of others are in conflict with some fundamental human rights. This is a debate that one can have for ages," Luc Frieden continued.
The Luxembourg minister of Justice noted that "the draft framework decision, as amended many times by me and the working group over the past months, has found large support though not unanimous. I think that this should not be misinterpreted in your analysis of this meeting, misinterpreted in the way that we are not serious about racism."
"But we have to take into account that Europe has different attitudes towards freedom of speech. Because of internal political discussions in some Member States, and in the absence of provisions regarding mutual legal assistance in the proposed framework decision, we could not find unanimous agreement. Personally I regret that because I wanted to find an agreement. I don’t see this as something very negative. It can be seen as Europe’s respect for the constitutional traditions of the Member States of the European Union. It is now up to the Commission to see how we take this forward. I think I can say on behalf of the British Presidency, that in view of the discussions today, they are not going to continue these discussions in the near future," he concluded.