Junior coalition members go it alone on antiracism legislation

Submitted by ILGA-Europe

Reposted from Enet: http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.politics&id=1052

Pasok and Democtatic Left join forces over draft law

Junion coalition partners Pasok and Democratic Left request that the draft law designed to criminalise incitement against people because of race, religion, ethnicity and sex be urgently submitted to parliament after main coalition party New Democracy opts not to support the bill

Junior coalition partners Pasok and Democratic Left have asked for draft antiracism legislation designed to criminalise incitement to commit racial violence to be submitted to parliament and voted on as a matter of urgency after main coalition partner New Democracy said on Monday night it would not support the bill.

Pasok and Democtatic Left leaders, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis, held a telephone conversation on Tuesday, in which they agreed to support the bill, which was drafted by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis, a lawyer and former chairman of the Athens Bar Association.

Earlier in the day, the secretary of Pasok's parliamentary group, Yiannis Maniatis, wrote a letter to the parliamentary president, Vangelis Meimerakis, requesting that the bill be presented for discussion and voted on as a matter of urgency.

They are hoping to elicit support from left-wing parties after New Democracy argued on Monday that existing anti-racism legislation is sufficient and that the bill could be at odds with the country's constitution.

Kouvelis strongly criticised the parliament's legislative committee for publishing its conclusions just two hours before a leaders' meeting started on Monday night, speaking of "unacceptable expediency".

The committee described several provisions in the proposed anti-racism law as "vague" and being "outside the scope of our constitutional framework."

A two-hour meeting of coalition leaders ended without agreement.

The bill would outlaw incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders, according to reports. It also provides provisions to punish the denying of Nazi war crimes.

MPs would not be excluded and parties that receive public funding would see it suspended if their leaders publicly denied the Holocaust, took part in racist attacks or used Nazi salutes or symbols in parliament.

Deputy Interior Minister Haralambos Athanasiou on Monday said the government's commitment to combat racism doesn't require new legislation but amendments to existing laws.

Syriza MP Zoi Konstantopoulou labelled Pasok and Democratic Left's stance a "communications tricks", adding that the parties should stop mocking voters.

"The legislation hasn't been submitted, and it isn't being submitted so that it is not voted through," said Konstantopoulou. "The draft legislation isn't the government's, it's parliament's.

The important question who is blocking Mr Roupakioti from submitting the bill? Personally, I am very sceptical and cautious in the light of such communications tricks."

European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom has expressed her wish for relevant EU legislation to be incorporated into Greece's national law, starting with the Roupakiotis' draft bill.

In a recent speech in Brussels, Malmstrom referred to a recent visit to Greece and said that Europe must not ignore the rise of extreme-right Golden Dawn to become the country's third biggest political party.

"I was in Athens two weeks ago to follow-up on how the country handles migrants and how they can prevent the rising right-wing extremism," she said. "I was horrified by some of the stories they told me including the one of a 14-year-old Afghan boy who was terribly beaten by what is alleged to have been a group of right-wing activists."

She added that she is very concerned about the mounting wave of harassment and violence targeting asylum seekers, immigrants and ethnic and sexual minorities in many European Countries.

"We have seen the development of islamophobic, anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideology in far right groups which are also anti-democratic, intolerant and conducive to violence," she said.

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