Infringement procedures

EU calls out Luxembourg on lack of hate speech laws

Flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, the European Commission’s HQ Library photo: Anthony Dehez

Flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels, the European Commission’s HQ Library photo: Anthony Dehez

The European Commission has formally put Luxembourg on notice for failing to transpose EU laws criminalising hate speech and hate crimes.

The commission on Thursday said it had opened infringement procedures against Germany, Hungary and Luxembourg as they haven’t fully or accurately transposed a framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.

“The Luxembourgish legal framework has not established any legal provisions ensuring that a racist and xenophobic motivation can be taken into account by the courts when deciding on the penalties,” the commission said.

Luxembourg law prohibits hate speech in any medium and provides for prison sentences of between eight days and two years and fines between €251 and €25,000. But the country has “failed to take the necessary measures to ensure racist and xenophobic hate crimes are effectively criminalised,” the commission said.

The three EU countries have two months to address the shortcomings identified by the commission. If Luxembourg fails to respond, the commission can send a reasoned opinion, a formal request to comply with EU law. If countries still don’t comply two months later, the commission can refer the matter to the Court of Justice of the European Union to seek sanctions.

As part of a package of infringement decision, the commission sent a reasoned opinion to Luxembourg to correctly transport the non-deductibility of interest payment rule set by the EU anti-tax avoidance directive (Atad).

This provides for a derogation of measures limiting the deductibility in the corporate tax base of interest payments in favour of financial undertakings.

“The directive includes an exhaustive list of entities considered as financial undertaking for this purpose,” the commission said. “However, Luxembourg grants the derogation also to securitisation entities, which are not financial undertakings within the meaning of the aforementioned provision.”

Luxembourg was also in the crosshairs of the commission over failure to transpose parts of the Single European Rail Area directive and bilateral investment treaties with other EU member states.

Foreign affairs minister Jean Asselborn (LSAP) in November said that Luxembourg is late on transposing 26 EU directives into national law. In two cases--directives on the control of firearms appropriation and ownership, and the freezing and confiscation of proceeds of crime--the commission has already seized the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union to slap a penalty on the grand duchy for failing to meet the deadline.