Council Of Europe: Xenophobia and hate speech were hallmarks of 2018

Hate speech and xenophobia became major concerns no longer relegated to the margins of European politics in 2018, according to an expert commission of the Council of Europe.

An annual report published Tuesday by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) warned that public anxieties about global political and economic changes were increasingly being “exploited by those scapegoating migrants and minorities.”

The commission warned against populist initiatives that are aimed at “dividing societies,” as well as ideologies that presume an “incompatibility” between different ethnic, national or religious groups in society.

“Not only were such views expressed by fringe politicians, but they increasingly gained footing within mainstream political parties and national governments,” the ECRI said in a statement.

Islamophobia and hate against foreigners spread to many parts of Europe in 2018, while anti-Semitism remained an ongoing problem, according to the ECRI report.

The group also called on politicians to proactively confront hate speech and do more to combat the spread of fake news.

The Council of Europe is based in Strasbourg and has a mandate to monitor human rights in its 47 member states. The ECRI is one of a number of committees that examine different aspects of human rights as part of the council’s mandate.