Racist attacks rise sharply in Europe

BERLIN (Reuters) - Racist attacks rose sharply in Europe last year, a top official said on Tuesday, increasing pressure on EU president Germany to strike a deal harmonising anti-racism and genocide denial rules across the bloc.

Speaking after a visit to Berlin’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said a report showed that in one country racist attacks were up by as much as 70 percent in 2006.

He declined to name which this country was but singled out a handful of nations in the 27-strong bloc where racially-motivated attacks had become more frequent.

“In many member states the increase was between 25 and 45 percent,” Frattini, an Italian, told reporters after meeting with Germany’s Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries.

“I can say in general that France, my own country, Belgium and the Netherlands are the ones where racism is growing.”

Frattini was referring to statistics compiled by the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) which are due to be published in a report in March.

A spokeswoman for the EUMC cautioned that statistics could be skewed by improved reporting mechanisms and better publicity about racist crime, encouraging more victims to come forward.

The figures are likely to increase calls on current European Union president Germany to broker an agreement on long-delayed proposals for an EU-wide law combating racism and denial of acts of genocide like the Holocaust.

EU politicians are divided on how to cope with claims the Holocaust never happened, hampering Germany’s attempts to conclude a deal under its six month stewardship of the bloc.

New EU states from the former communist bloc also want the text of any agreement to ban the denial of Stalinist crimes.

“I am confident that we can get an agreement before the end of the German presidency,” Frattini said.