Sunday, 22 April 2007

Holocaust denial: what happened to European principles?

In a climbdown from its earlier plans, the EU has decided not to introduce a blanket ban on Holocaust denial. The new proposal, a compromise agreed between Ministers, makes it illegal to trivialise crimes of genocide, but only if it has the effect of inciting hatred or violence. It sounds rather like a waste of time, as you'd have thought inciting hatred or violence was illegal anyway, but even if it's superfluous, it's still a considerable improvement.

Chris Davies, Lib Dem Euro MP for the North West, responded with this superb little nugget:

There are stupid people everywhere but in a free society they should have the right to be stupid.

Yes, quite.

I do wonder, though: why on earth does this sort of thing require EU-wide legislation? Much as I disagree with banning Holocaust denial, I can understand why it's a matter for debate in places like Germany and Austria. The different EU member states have very different histories and responsibilities, so why isn't it up to national parliaments to decide what's right for each country? This certainly isn't an area where the EU should have competence.

Angela Merkel, at the start of Germany's EU Presidency, talked about the importance of reviving the European Constitution. One of the good things about that Constitution was the emphasis it put on the principle of subsidiarity - the idea that everything the EU does should be carried out on the lowest possible level. If the members states can get something done on their own, the EU should keep its nose out of it. This entire episode shows a shocking contempt towards that key principle of subsidiarity. European voters have already rejected the Constitution in its present form, and if even the Council of Ministers can walk all over it with disdain, they can hardly expect people to accept a revised version.


Tom Papworth said...

I agree completely.

No matter how grotesque holocaust denial may seem, it is as nothing compared to legislating against people's freedom of speech. If we are so sure of our truths, can we not defend them with evidence and reason, rather than legislating to protect them? Let the holocaust deniers shout from the rooftops; they just draw attention to an evil that might otherwise fade into the distance.

As for European-wide legislation, it is neither necessary nor warranted. Sadly, the EU has always treated the subsidiarity clause with contempt. Like all bureaucracies, the Eurocracy seeks constantly to expand its powers. Sadly, Liberal Democrat euro-parliamentarians are all too ready to assist that creeping arrogation of power.

dynamite said...

Agree with every word.