As coalition leaders prepare to meet, Parliament committee says anti-racism bill not needed

A parliamentary committee has said that Greece’s existing laws against discrimination suffice and there is no need for new anti-racism legislation, just hours ahead of a meeting between coalition leaders to discuss the issue.

The panel of MPs that deals with would-be legislation said that existing laws do enough to punish racial hatred and other forms of prejudice. The committee also said that any changes should be in the form of amendments rather than a new set of laws.

It should be noted that New Democracy has the most MPs on the committee, whose findings are in line with the conservative party’s position on the issue.

Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis has drawn up a bill introducing tougher penalties for racially-motivated crimes and seeking to ensure Greece is line with an EU directive on racism and xenophobia.

New Democracy, however, has expressed doubts about the proposed law.

Deputy Interior Minister Haralambos Athanasiou said on Monday that he felt there was no need for new legislation but some “interventions” and “additions”.

“I think the existing legal framework covers the needs set out by the EU directive,” he told NET TV.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and the head of Democratic Left, Fotis Kouvelis, are due to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss the bill.

PASOK and Democratic Left are in favor of the new legislation. Venizelos said over the weekend that the differences over the issue within the coalition are damaging the government’s image. Kouvelis said that those who say the existing law is enough are wrong.

SYRIZA has accused New Democracy of pandering to far right Golden Dawn over the issue.

Speaking to Skai radio on Monday, SYRIZA spokesman Panos Skourletis accused Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s party of having direct lines of communication with Golden Dawn.

“There is a conscious political convergence between the government and neoNazi Golden Dawn,” said Skourletis.