Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The EU and Outlawing of Holocaust Denial

The German agenda for its January-June 2007 presidency of the Council of the European Union, includes according to this Guardian article and this BBC article, a proposal to outlaw Holocaust denial in all EU countries.

The proposal, which seems to be the brainchild of Germany's Justice minister Brigitte Zypries, is in my opinion bizarre. Not only is the outlawing of holocaust denial an affront to freedom of speech and contravy to the constitutions of several EU countries, but it is also likely fuel anti-EU sentiment in Northern European countries where freedom of speech is particularly treasured.

However, the main question for me is on what legal basis does Germany propose to introduce such a ban? The EU does not generally have any competence in the area of criminal law, although the third pillar of the EU treaty does concern cooperation within the area of Justice and Home Affairs.

The answer to my question could be Article 29 of the Treay on the European Union, which states that one of the EU's objectives is to combat racism and xenophobia through "approximation... of rules on criminal matters." However Article 29 stipulates that this can happen only "when necessary" and is subject to Article 31(e), which limits approximation to "establishing minimum rules relating to constituent elements criminal acts." Finally, any measure adopted by the Council within this area of EU law must, according to Article 34, be adopted unanimously and cannot have direct effect.

This all leaves me somewhat confused and doubtful as to whether the proposal will be implemented. To summarise: First, the EU has a very limited competence within the area of criminal law and then only seek harmonisation of minimum rules when necessary. Secondly, when the Council acts on matters of justice it can only do so unanimously. Thirdly, such a measure would be unconstitutional in several countries. Finally, the proposal will be seen by many as an unacceptable EU interference in national states sovereignty.


At 17 January, 2007 00:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes - totally agree!

Amen! Preach it!

Long live freedom of speech!

In all seriousness, I really support your point of view.


At 17 January, 2007 10:02, Blogger karlund said...

This is a display of one of the biggest internal problems with EU. That the shared leadership (which probably is the only feasible political solution presently) gives rise to countries "personal" agendas!

Germany has a long history (especially after 2nd world war) of oppressing extreeme views. "Berufsverbot" is a good example of it, and the ban of holocost denying another. Luckily several EU countries have constitutions against censorship of any form, and this law probably would need a referandum in several of the countries, especially Denmark! (And possibly a referendum on the constitution...)

At 17 January, 2007 10:05, Blogger karlund said...

Oh by the way. The link I mentioned last time we met to the Electronic Frontier Foundation is www.eff.org

I find it a good source of liberty issues concerning any electronic medium...

At 17 January, 2007 23:54, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Karlund, jeg er helt enig.

Tysklands 'berufsverbot' regler og nazi-forbud mv. har i min opfattelse kun ungået international fordømmelse pga. Tysklands Nazi fortid.

Men, nu virker det som om Tyskland for lov til at udbrede disse frihedskrænkende regler. Godt nok bliver dette konkrete forslag formentlig ikke gennemført, men andre lande har jo allerede efterlignet Tyskland med forbud mod holocaust fornægteles. Et eksempel er Frankrig, hvor der også har været fremsat lovforslag om at kriminalisere fornægtelse of masseudrydelserne of Armenere i Tyrkiet.

Vi må til barrikaderne!

At 18 January, 2007 10:22, Blogger karlund said...

Frihedskaempere i verden foren eder ;-)

Jeg maa vist snart maelde mig ind i Liberty. Man kan mene hvad man vil om fornaegtelse af holocost, men jeg havde slet ikke hort om anti fornaegtelses regler imod masseudrydelserne i Armenien.

Frankrig kan da kun overveje det pga. "Tyrker" eller "muslimer" frygt, hvilket i sig selv er noget betaenkeligt, uden overhovedet at betragte ytringsfriheden...

Selvom det kunne vaere helt befriende med en anti fornaegtelses regle af Israels overgreb og udryddelse af Palestinensere ville jeg stadig vaere imod den!! :o)

At 18 January, 2007 11:23, Blogger karlund said...

I just read this article, it is definately onthogonal to this post, however I believe you'd find it interesting. It certainly highlights how EU is trying to harmonise in areas where there are disagreements between member states.

At 18 January, 2007 11:56, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hopefully this make sense!

JEG glæde sig ved en hel bemærkninger! Den Dansk gengivelse programmel ( og Kiersten ) skulle bruge noget hjælp , selv om. farvel

(Just in case you can't understand what I just wrote, either for all the laughing at my feeble attempts, or for the software translation, here is the English verion "I enjoyed all the comments! The Danish translation software (and Kiersten) needed some help, though. Cheers!"

:-) Peace!

At 18 January, 2007 13:32, Blogger karlund said...

It probably didn't help, that I'm using a computer with English keyboard...

And yes the translation is a bit "funny" ;-)

At 18 January, 2007 18:10, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

I guess it was a little rude to switch over into Danish...

My fingers were just itching to write:
"international fordømmelse", "frihedskrænkende" and "masseudrydelserne".

ps. is the translation software available on the internet?


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