Úz Valley Cemetery

Úz Valley: EC calls on Romania to implement EU hate speech law

Following the scandalous acts committed last year in the Úz Valley military graveyard, MEPs of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by its Hungarian acronym RMDSZ) and Fidesz-KDNP have repeatedly turned to the European Commission to take a stance. In response to the MEPs’ recent letter, Commissioner Helena Dalli highlighted that the EC can intervene at a local level if a member state fails to comply with EU rules.

The letter penned on February 12 emphasizes that the EC called on Romania to fully transpose the EU law criminalizing hate speech and hate crimes back in October 2020, that it will take steps to effectively implement the framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia through criminal law, and that it will ensure manifestations of racism and xenophobia are punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties throughout the EU.

“While individual cases of incorrect application of EC law are better dealt with at the national level, the Commission may intervene in cases of a systematic failure by a Member State to comply with EC law or when national legislation does not comply with EC law”, the commissioner wrote.

As we previously reported,on June 6, 2019, an angry Romanian crowd broke into a WWI-era Austro-Hungarian military cemetery, surging past praying, ethnic Hungarians. Despite a massive police presence, the Romanians began laying wreaths at the illegally erected stone crosses of purported Romanian war heroes.

A group of Romanians were chanting the slogan “Out with Hungarians from the country.” Following the scandalous incident, an investigation was launched, but according to the prosecutor, Daniel Gălbează, no criminal offense was committed at the site, and the case was closed.

In a post announcing the EC’s change in stance over hate speech, Member of the European Parliament Loránt Vincze expressed his strong belief that the change in communication is due to the joint lobbying by RMDSZ and Fidesz-KDNP MEPs to draw the Commission’s attention to the faulty nature of ignoring the xenophobic nature of the Úz Valley events.

In her reply to the MEPs’ letter, Dalli emphasized that the EC issued a letter of formal notice on October 30, 2020,

calling on the Romanian government to take action and transpose the EU law criminalizing hate speech.

Romania has not yet correctly defined hate speech, as it has failed to criminalize hate speech inciting violence. Furthermore, Romania criminalizes only hate speech inciting hatred when this conduct is directed against a group of people defined by reference to race, color, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin but not when addressed toward an individual member of such groups, the letter said.

Title image: Romanian crowd broke into a WWI-era Austro-Hungarian military cemetery, surging past a picket of praying, ethnic Hungarians. Image source: MTI

Author: István Fekete