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Words matter - Combating hate crime in Europe

Norway is a key partner of this year’s Fundamental Rights Conference through the EEA and Norway Grants. The conference is a high level annual event, organised by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

The 2013 conference, taking place 12-13 November in Vilnius and hosted in cooperation with the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU, is focusing on the issue of ‘Combating hate crime in the EU’.

Ahead of the event, Børge Brende, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said “The rule of law and strong democratic institutions are key to foster societies to challenge hate speech and hate crime. If victims of hate crime suffer from lack of response from authorities and offenders are not prosecuted the whole society suffers and ultimately democracy fails.”

Norway is taking a strong stance against hate speech - using the EEA and Norway Grants as a tool both to raise awareness of the issue in Europe and its risks for democracy as well as to promote tolerance and multicultural awareness. The Grants support a range of initiatives to tackle hate speech online and offline in the various funding sectors, mainly through civil society and the NGO programmes.

Support from the Grants for the Fundamental Rights Conference builds on an active commitment to raise the profile of these issues on the European agenda. The Grants have supported several conferences over the past year, including Tackling Hate Speech: Living Together Online” (Budapest), “Right-Wing Extremism and Hate Crime” (Oslo) and “Hate Factor in Political Speech” (Warsaw).

For the Fundamental Rights Conference a study on hate crime in Lithuania will be presented, which has been funded through the Grants. Violence and crimes motivated by prejudice are common across the continent. But with victims often reluctant to speak out, many crimes remain unreported and unprosecuted. The study will provide an extensive up-to-date analysis of the hate crime-related situation in the country (with a particular focus on victim support), comparing current practices in Lithuania with EU standards. This will complement work being carried out by FRA and fill a gap in data collection.

With €147 million for the period 2009-2014, the EEA Grants NGO programmes are one of the biggest funding schemes for civil society in Central Europe. The programmes have been set up in all beneficiary countries and actively address hate speech as well as tackle extremism, racism and xenophobia, homophobia and anti-Semitism and promote tolerance and multicultural awareness. NGOs can apply directly to programmes in their country for funding for projects that set out to counter or raised consciousness of hate speech.

The Grants are also a strategic partner of the Council of Europe’s Europe-wide NO HATE SPEECH movement – a campaign devised by young people to raise awareness of the issue of online hate speech. All of our NGO programmes are actively engaged in the campaign which runs until the end of 2014.

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