European Union nations agreed Thursday on new rules to combat racism and hate crimes across the 27-nation bloc, including setting jail sentences against those who deny or trivialize the Holocaust.
A compromise deal on the rules was reached by EU justice and interior ministers after nearly six years of negotiations, officials said.
The proposed rules, which still have to be vetted by national parliaments, calls for up to three-year prison sentences for those convicted of denying massacres defined as genocide by the International Criminal Court, including the Holocaust and the mass killings in Rwanda in the 1990s.
EU justice and interior ministers said the rules call for criminalizing "incitement to hatred and violence and publicly condoning, denying or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes."
The mass killing of Jews during World War II was the only genocide specifically mentioned in the rules. Demands from Baltic nations that major Stalinist atrocities be included were rejected.
German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, whose country holds the EU presidency, said a compromise was reached to organize a public debate on genocide and other hate crimes not mentioned in the draft rules.
The rules were significantly watered down from an original proposal drafted in 2001. Member states can opt out of criminalizing massacres not defined as genocide by the international court.
Reaching a deal had been difficult amid vastly different legal and cultural traditions. Whether to criminalize genocide denial had been a key sticking point. Several countries, including Britain, Italy and Denmark, had been concerned the new measures would undermine freedom of expression.