(Note: You can view and download a the PDF version of this text from the EU web site here



Re: The European Commission (EC) roadmap consultation on the inclusion of ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’ as EU crimes (Article 83(1) TFEU).[1]

April 20, 2021

Freedom for All is a human rights and public debate organization dedicated to the defense of personal freedoms. We have participated in cases and written legal opinions for the ECtHR, Bulgarian Supreme Courts, the Constitutional Court and the National Assembly and defended such opinions and views in the public square on various relevant topics.

A Summary of Our Response to the Road Map Proposal

As mentioned in the Road Map, the Commission’s initiative will aim to trigger a Council decision to extend the list of EU crimes in Article 83(1) TFEU to include hate speech and hate crime. It is our view that the Council of the European Union must abandon criminalizing free speech and establishing discrimination and privileges in criminal justice with the introduction of the categories “hate speech” and “hate crimes” in Art. 83 of TFEU. Otherwise, it is inevitable that the EU, in violation of its own founding principles and adopted human rights protection laws, will turn into a totalitarian bureaucracy which opposes individual freedom and punishes citizens for thought crimes. Arguments follow.

Why the Concept of “Hate Crimes” Should be Abandoned

The idea of a “hate crime” is a legal and philosophical misconception. No crime, especially the ones perpetrated against the person, as causing physical or property harm, is committed out of love and respect for that person. Hate is behind most and such crimes. To label some crimes against the person as “hate” is to justify all other crimes as less repugnant and worthy of criminal prosecution.

For the state and law enforcement to act as the judge of intent and morality and to impede on the idea that hate and love can be mandated by the state is absurd on its face. Morality and thought are a part of the individual’s freedom and they cannot be mandated or even strictly regulated by the state. The state in a democratic society can only regulate actions, and especially harmful actions. To mandate people what to think, and respectively, to exclude bias from their inner life is beyond the role of a state bureaucracy and law enforcement.

Those crimes addressed by the EU in this roadmap can be rectified not by creating a new penal category and new crime standards, but by applying proportionate penalty for the severity of the crimes committed. Creating new crime categories for crimes committed against each minority group will result in a fragmented and ineffective, and also highly discriminatory, criminal and prosecutorial system in the member states. Prosecution will inevitably also become politicized beyond any measure acceptable in a democratic and free society.

“According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) hate crimes are “criminal offences committed with a bias motive”. This widely recognised definition is also the one used in this study.”[2] Even this definition shows how inept is the attempt to attach an emotional and worldview element to criminal intent and action. Are criminals who commit a certain crime not allowed to have bias? They have gone so far as to commit usually violent physical attacks on persons and property recognized as crimes, and yet we expect them to have the proper thought process to alleviate their punishment for the crime? If a “bias motive” should be included as an element of the crime, then re-education must be part of the punishment. This concept becomes especially dangerous when the so-called “hate speech” becomes the hate crime itself (as seems to be proposed in the Road Map). In such a case re-education prisons or concentration camps will become necessary to punish people for the wrong thought and expression, according to that one institution, body, or authority that defines what thoughts are hateful, and which are not.

“Hate crime” laws will only impose regulations in the criminal jurisprudence which are incompatible with the criminal system of a free society but rather fit a tyrannical regime. To legislate the “morality” of the day in a pluralistic society to such an extent as to define what the acceptable emotional feelings and judgments are, and regulate the psyche of the individual, is beyond the task of any democratic legislation.

Why the Concept Of “Hate Speech” Laws Should Be Abandoned

Firstly, hate speech laws will likely be in violation of Art. 6 of the Treaties of the European Union (TEU), which commits the Union to the value of the European Convention on Human Rights. Similarly misconstrued is the idea of, and the plan to introduce “hate speech” laws that criminalize expression. As per the above mentioned “hate crimes” can we empower the government to decide in a pluralistic society what is “hate” and what is “love?” Can the state, or even the majority in a democratic society, impose values and emotional conditions that are not accepted voluntarily by all, as to how all should feel, and what level of moral approval or outrage should all exhibit in regards to certain speech, without the state and that society ceasing to be democratic and free? Of course, it is the state that most likely will adopt this role of an “arbiter” of various views, and will have to establish a “state ministry of truth” to control who hates and who loves. People can be easily offended and they can easily accuse anyone of “hate” who does not espouse their view on a given subject. We have seen this, and continue to witness it today, many times over. The result is prolonged, unnecessary litigation that eventually ruins the lives of people.

Secondly, the criminalization of speech on the EU level will collide with laws and principles of guarding freedom of speech. The member states have already adopted internal and international laws that protect free speech. EU member states recognize the European Convention on Human Rights and the respective Court in Strasbourg. Many other international treaties protect the free expression of opinions and views. Adoption of EU regulation in this realm will go against the strict description of limitations on free expression of the European Convention.

There are other concerns about “hate speech laws,” besides the clear contradiction with ECHR and other laws protecting freedom of expression and thought.

Who decides what “hate speech” is? Such laws require the judicial assessment of the content of certain speech, but the criteria for such assessment is unclear (moral and legal). The wording “hate speech” is vague, fluid, and subject to arbitrary interpretations and applications, resulting in injustices through the legal process.[3]

In this regard we must emphasize that “hate speech” laws are essentially subjective and work through approximations. The Council of Europe’s definition of hate speech employs such ambiguous concepts like “promote,” “justify,” “other forms of intolerance,” “hostility,” and “aggressive.” “Hate speech” is labeled such by the hearer and relies on his or her perceptions and feelings which makes it vague and elusive. No respectful democratic society will impose limitations on one of the main pillars of freedom, free thought and expression, by basically criminalizing opinions and a robust public debate.

“Hate speech” will increase state power by bestowing on state authorities to use those vague definitions to arbitrarily decide with what falls into the category of “hate,” and thus to justify policing of people’s opinions and even thoughts.

The adoption of “hate speech” laws on such a broad and far-reaching scale, criminalizing speech, not actions, and imposing such an ominous standard on the member states within the EU will starkly pave the road for the EU turning into a sinister force for oppression as a totalitarian super-state. The EU was never created with the intention to abandon reason, legal tradition, and individual rights in favor of establishing a monstrous bureaucratic thought-control machine. 

Any adoption of regulations on “hate speech” will be an unnecessary imposition of non-democratic principles onto a societal environment which needs robust and honest discourse. Criminalizing “hate speech” under Art. 83 of TFEU will be a heavy blow against the very principles on which the EU is built: of protection of democratic principles and individual rights as the stalwart of a free and democratic society.


Our Recommendations

Ideas and opinions should be freely expressed in a democratic society, as it is inevitable that individuals or groups will be offended by ideas they fundamentally disagree with. Any limitation of speech and expression has to be narrowly-defined, clearly defined, proportionate, legitimate, pursuing a clear aim and must ensure that less restrictive means do not exist. To make speech a crime, not physical actions and attacks, is a step toward policing indiscriminately the thought life and the freedom of expression of people.

Thus, no legislation limiting or criminalizing the so-called “hate speech” should be adopted. Speech must be regulated only when it is used to cause and/or incite imminent physical harm to others.

Any limitation on speech should be assessed objectively, by including the context in which it was carried out, and not take into consideration the subjective elements such as the perception of the hearer.

Any limitation on speech may not include the vague concepts of “incitement to discrimination or hatred.” So called “offensive” and “disturbing speech” should not be banned but allowed for a meaningful public debate and to engage citizens in the democratic process.

For similar reasons, as per the arguments listed above about “hate speech” the idea of elevating the status of so-called “hate crimes” must be abandoned.


In general, the Road Map poses a threat to individual freedoms as it aims to criminalize free speech beyond any tradition and principle of democratic societies and impose control on free thought by using the fluid and vaguely defined category of “hate speech.” Any regulations based on the ideas in the document will be in contrast and in possible violation of already adopted laws and treaties.

In regards to “hate crimes” the inclusion of the worldview (bias of motive) of the perpetrator of these crimes will further and unnecessarily deprive the judiciary of objective criteria on which to establish the extent of the crime, its effect on the victim and society, and a proportionate punishment. The rule that in a democratic society the state punishes actions, not thoughts, will be abandoned as a solid legal principle.

Thus, the Road Map paves the way to establishing harmful laws and regulations that will further erode essential individual freedoms which are the pillars of a free and democratic society. The Road Map, if implemented, will inevitably propel the EU toward becoming a massive totalitarian super-bureaucracy police state which eventually will lead to its rejection by the peoples of Europe.

Viktor Kostov, Ph.D.
lawyer, missiologist
Freedom for All


(Correction: A previous version stated "Council of Europe" in paragraph 3. It was corrected to read "Council of the European Union." This correction should be kept in mind when accessing the PDF report submitted to the EC.)


[1] See Hate speech & hate crime – inclusion on list of EU crimes (europa.eu).

[2] Hate speech and hate crime in the EU and the evaluation of online content regulation approaches, a Study requested by LIBE, July 2020, p. 22, Access at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2020/655135/IPOL_STU(2020)655135_EN.pdf.

[3] An example of the fluidity of thought behind the term “hate speech” is this attempt at a definition in the study requested by LIBE committee of the EP: “The term "hate speech" is used inclusively according to its everyday meaning, covering all expressions and manifestations of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc., and for distinction of the legal category "criminal hate speech" or specifically "incitement to hatred" is used.” See Hate speech and hate crime in the EU and the evaluation of online content regulation approaches, a Study requested by LIBE, July 2020, p. 20, Access at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2020/655135/IPOL_STU(2020)655135_EN.pdf.

Advocate Dr. Viktor Kostov's speech,
presented at a discussion held on February 14, 2020, 11:00,
at the 44th National Assembly, East Hall


Ladies and Gentlemen, Honorable Members of Parliament,

Freedom for All (FFA) is a human rights and publishing group, active since 2004. We work to protect basic human rights and the traditional family.

Here is a brief summary of our joint opinion submitted to the National Assembly in November 2019 on the issue with ROD. Our position is completely critical of the letter and spirit of the Social Services Act (SSA), which has been delayed until 1 July 2020.

We draw attention to the fact that there is still no satisfactory legally reasoned response to our extensive criticisms of the Social Services Law.

The new SSA is tyrannical and anti-democratic legislation of philosophy and concept. The Social Services Act is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Constitution (CRB).

As a matter of principle, the SSA (ZSU -- abbreviation in Bulgarian) is a total law which, instead of the “social assistance” referred to in the CRB, introduces a “social service” that is universal and comprehensive, and in many cases obligatory, that is, provided against the will of the beneficiary. ZSU threatens the right to privacy and family life, the right and obligation of parents to raise their children, the right to a fair trial, etc. fundamental rights - ECHR - Art. 8, Art. 6 - and of the Constitution - Art. 32, para. 1, and Art. 47;

ZSU puts in opposition to each other parents and children, introducing and further perverting the idea of ​​children's rights as opposed to those of their parents. In this way, millennial legal principles and the natural bond between parents and children are being violated and the traditional family is being deconstructed.

The law privatizes and makes a commercial profit of the idea of ​​human mutual assistance and virtue.

It enables foreign traders and legal entities to act on the territory of the country, including without a license, and in violation of national sovereignty. The law virtually deprives Bulgarian citizens living in Bulgarian territory of the protection of the Bulgarian Constitution and the European Convention.

Under ZSU complete and centralized databases with personal information of parents and their children are formed, with full access to those by local and foreign actors and organizations.

ZSU extends the powers of social services and providers of social services excessively and in violation of a number of laws, turning them into coercive bodies without adequate judicial control and supervision, and without adequate protection of the rights of parents and children.

In general, the ideological charge behind the SSA and related child protection legislation contains elements of social engineering and does not respect the millennial traditions of the Bulgarian people, religious customs and practices, as well as the fundamental essence of the natural family unit.

The shortcomings of the SSA are so significant and numerous that no attempts and draft amendments can correct the radical ideological and anti-democratic nature of the law.

The Social Services Act should be repealed in its entirety.



A view of one of the parental protests in 2019 against the anti-family policies and laws


2019 was marked by the emergence of a wide family rights movement in Bulgaria. Parents, distraught at the total neglect of their rights, and at the clear putting in opposition to each other their parental privileges and duties, on one side, and the "right of the child," on the other, pushed back against the government policies and new laws.

A brief chronology of the events in 2019: 

  • a homeschooling organization and our own Freedom for All publish statements and petitions critiquing the new National Strategy for the Child 2019-2030 and its anti-family ideology, Jan 2019;
  • a petition is added, it reaches over 30,000 signatures, Feb 2019;
  • A Facebook group is started by two concerned mothers, Feb 2019;
  • the Strategy is withdrawn by the government but applied in the newly adopted Social Services Act, March 2019;
  • the FB group grows exponentially to over 100,000 members, May 2019;
  • Street rallies and protests are held in various cities in the nation, May-June 2019;
  • First attempt at addressing the issues with members of Bulgarian parliament, July-Aug 2019;
  • A first international conference on child kidnapping by Social Services is held in Sofia, with guests from the UK, Austria, and most notably from Norway, whose notorious Barenevernet (Child Protection Services) is being sued in the European Court of Human Rights for parental rights and human rights violations on more than 30 cases, Sept. 29, 2019;
  • Generally, central media continuously ignore the serious arguments against the new SSA and its anti-family and totalitarian essence, depicting the family-rights groups as "extremist," "right-wing," and "religious sects," May-Oct 2019.
  • a non-profit organization is formed, Parents United for Children (ROD), to express the views of the movement and give it public legitimacy, the Facebook group grows to over 210,000 members, Oct. 2019;
  • Protests, meetings with representatives of parties in parliament, sympathetic to the cause continue. FFA and ROD submit a brief legal analysis (see below) insisting that SSA should be entirely revoked as totalitarian and anti-family and anti- basic human rights, to the National Assembly. One of the political parties in parliament introduces a law with a single provision: the revocation of SSA, Nov. 2019;
  • Dec. 2019 - parent' group's protests and critical publications continue media debates and conversations with politicians. The National Assembly postpones the enactment of SSA, due to become active on Jan. 1, 2020, for 6 months.

It remains to be seen if the government will honor parental rights and concern or will yield to the pressure from the EU, Norway and big donors who insist on changing societal mores and values in small Eastern European nations, including Bulgaria.


Here you can download the full critical analysis of the Social Services Act of 2020, 8 pp., in English.


Protest of evangelical Christians in late December 2018 against the restrictive proposal for changes in the nation's religious law. The sign reads: The Law on Religions Does Not Guarantee National Security (Photo courtesy of the website: actualno.com).


Law for the Amendment and Supplements on Law on Religions, State Gazette, nos. 108 of 29.12.2018, enacted as of 01.01.2019 - A Step Backwards from Freedom of Religion and Conscience


The Law for the Amendments to the Religious Denominations Act (LASLR, adopted in 2002, last amended and supplemented as of 29.12.2018) was published in the State Gazette and entered into law as of January 1, 2019. A detailed analysis and comments are forthcoming. The law was hastily voted in right before the end of the year by the Bulgarian parliament, after months of opposition, letters of concern by foreign officials, organizations and individuals, and street protests and prayer vigils by protestant-evangelical churches.

Our conclusion, quite briefly, is that the vast majority of the most restrictive, utterly totalitarian texts were not accepted in the final version.* This is an extremely important achievement for free civil society and the human rights activists involved, including the evangelical churches and all the religious denominations. Problematic texts, however, do exist in the newly adopted amendments. 

Reasons for concern are the provisions that require religious denominations to maintain a registry of their clergymen and provide this to the public authorities for review. This requirement is reminiscent of the Communist Denominations Act, which required the maintenance of such registers to control and exert pressure on ministers and preachers related to their convictions and sermons.

It is also problematic that the state mandates as to how priests and clergy should legitimize themselves in order to represent the respective religious denominations they serve. The "representative power" is a part of the internal organization of religions and cannot be governed by the State under the European Convention on Human Rights and the Guidelines for the Adoption of Religious Legislation adopted by the Venice Commission and the Office for Democracy and Human Rights at the OSCE.

There is another purely communist-Nazi style approach to control and discriminate against foreign clergymen.  This is the requirement to notify the state if a non-Bulgarian clergy member participates in a worship service. Foreign clergymen can participate in the worship service "after the Directorate on Religions has been notified. When "participation" means to be "present during worship," then only the mere presence of an individual is sufficient to apply this administrative burdensome requirement. Registered religious denominations will first have to notify the state and then admit the foreign clergyman to the worship service. If there is no such notification, in order to comply with this law, the foreign clergyman must listen to the worship service outside of the building where it is held. Such provisions establish unlawful discrimination on multiple grounds and are adopted in violation of the Protection against Discrimination Act (religion and national origin).

The administrative burden for religious denominations has increased giving religious denominations only seven days after their registration to file the decision for registration by the court with the Directorate on Religions. In an age of "e-government", the seeming inability for communication between the Sofia City Court and the Council of Ministers to provide this information as a part of the internal information exchange between government bodies is only an excuse for further harassment of the religious communities that register as religious denominations.

The strange requirement to not use a sound system in open-air religious activities is formulated in a rather vague and confusing fashion but has managed to be entered into the new law.

Under a typical state-political model, so-called "big denominations" will receive a subsidy by the state. But funding seems to be the smallest problem of all the adopted changes - although it is absurd for taxpayers to be charged a tax to fund religious beliefs that they do not share (as is the practice with political parties).

It is yet to be established what action is to be taken by the denominations and by the Protestant churches in view of the restrictive texts adopted in the LASLR 2018. Despite the victory won for freedom of religion due to exclusion of the most extreme proposals in these amendments by the legislature, the remaining restrictive texts adopted into law are a retreat from the principles of freedom of conscience and religion in a democratic and free society. They are an expression of a totalitarian and discriminatory state attitude towards religion and freedom of expression and are in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The full text (in Bulgarian) of the law can be found here, and here in PDF format with the underlined changed text in it.

*Note: Our group, Freedom for All, actively opposed the bill, as we were representing 12 evangelical-protestant denominations. Briefly, our contribution was that we entered a Declaration on May 28 into parliament, a petition supporting the Declaration of almost 10,000 people worldwide, in November, published a 15-page legal Analysis of the bills, and participated in workgroup meetings at the commission on religions and human rights in parliament, and in a number of TV shows denouncing the philosophy of the bill and its specific restrictive provisions. We also filed an application to request the Venice Commission opinion addressing it to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, on behalf of the 12 denominations; our thanks go to ADF Europe for their excellent counsel and help with the application.