Select Committee on European Union Thirty-Second Report


1 JULY 2003

By the Select Committee appointed to consider European Union documents and other matters relating to the European Union.



Docs 15490/1/02 and    Proposal for a Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia

7280/03 Droipen 14

Purpose of Report

1.  This is our second Report on the proposal for a Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia. In our first Report[1] on this subject we identified, for the information of the House, the key issues raised by the Commission's proposal. In this Report we take the opportunity to update the House as regards the main developments in the text and the progress of its scrutiny.[2]

The Proposal

2.  The aim of the proposal[3] is to approximate Member States' laws and regulations regarding racism and xenophobia in order to ensure that the same behaviour constitutes an offence in all Member States and that effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties and sanctions are provided for natural and legal persons who commit such offences. The draft Framework Decision sets out the conduct which must be punishable, the penalties applicable to such conduct and measures for ensuring effective judicial cooperation between Member States in this context.

Scrutiny history

3.  The proposal has a lengthy scrutiny history and the text has been substantially redrafted since the original Commission proposal. The negotiation of the Framework Decision has been actively pursued by successive Presidencies over the past eighteen months. No agreement, however, was achieved under the Danish or the Greek Presidency—the Framework Decision is subject to unanimity and a number of Member States have difficulties with the text.[4] It is as yet unclear what degree of priority the incoming Italian Presidency will attach to the measure.

4.  The draft Framework Decision has been the subject of substantial correspondence between the Committee and the Government. On 30 April we had a further meeting with Lord Filkin CBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, and officials.[5] The Government's Explanatory Memorandum dated 25 March 2003, the ministerial correspondence and the transcript of the meeting with the Minister are printed in Appendix 2 of this Report. We would like to record our appreciation and thanks for the assistance given by the Minister in this matter.

Issues raised

5.  As we indicated in our earlier Report the proposed Framework Decision raises a number of important and controversial issues.

1   Combating Racism and Xenophobia-Defining criminal offences in the EU (29th Report, 2001-02, HL Paper 162). Back

2   Carried out by Sub-Committee E (Law and Institutions) chaired by Lord Scott of Foscote. The membership of the Sub-Committee is set out in Appendix 1. Back

3   The Framework Decision would replace the 1996 Joint Action concerning action to combat racism and xenophobia [1996] OJ L 185/5. Back

4   This can be seen from section II "Outstanding Questions" and the footnotes to the Text of the Decision in Droipen 14, Doc 7280/03. Back

5   The Committee's first meeting with the Minister on this subject was in June 2002. A transcript of that meeting is printed with our first Report, Combating Racism and Xenophobia-Defining criminal offences in the EU (29th Report, 2001-02, HL Paper 162). Back

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