EC opens infringement proceedings against Bulgaria on hate speech

The European Commission said on February 18 that it has opened an infringement procedure against Bulgaria for failing to “fully or accurately transpose” EU rules on combating racism and xenophobia in its criminal laws, as required by the EU’s Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA.

That directive aims to ensure that serious manifestations of racism and xenophobia are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties throughout the EU, the Commission said.

In Bulgaria’s case, the EC said that the country’s legal framework did not ensure that the racist and xenophobic motivation is taken into account by national courts as an aggravating factor for all crime committed, therefore failing to ensure hate crimes are effectively and adequately prosecuted.

“Bulgaria has failed to transpose correctly the criminalisation of specific forms of hate speech, which incite violence or hatred, namely the public condoning, denial or gross trivialisation of international crimes and the Holocaust,” the EC said.

Bulgaria has two months to reply to the points raised by the Commission. If it fails to do so, the EC could escalate the matter through a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement process.

The new proceedings come just days after the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Bulgaria in two cases, one lodged by two Bulgarian Jews and one by two Roma people, over rulings against them in cases they had lodged against far-right politician Volen Siderov.

It was also one of two new infringement proceedings opened by the Commission as part of its February infringements package. In the other cases, the EC urged Bulgaria to transpose EU radiation protection legislation under the Euratom Drinking Water Directive.

The package also advanced two existing infringement proceedings against Bulgaria, by sending an additional letter of formal notice concerning the provision of data link services for aircraft operators and a reasoned opinion urging Bulgaria to connect its national business register to the EU’s Business Registers Interconnection System (BRIS).

In the latter case, the Commission said that BRIS was a tool meant to increase transparency of information on companies and Bulgaria’s failure to connect to BRIS made it “complicated for EU citizens, companies and professionals to obtain relevant information on Bulgarian companies.”

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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