Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, outraged European counterparts and Jewish groups in Britain last November by rejecting the draft plan which aimed to strengthen co- operation and close loopholes arising from differences in member states' legal systems which are exploited by groups such as neo-Nazis to pursue some activities with impunity.
At yesterday's meeting in Brussels, Mr Howard agreed to go along with the joint action, which obliges member states to make it an automatic criminal offence to incite discrimination, violence or racial hatred, to condone crimes against humanity, to deny the Holocaust, to distribute racist tracts or to take part in groups which involve discrimination or racial, ethnic or religious hatred.
But he secured an annexe stating that in Britain such behaviour must be shown to be "threatening, abusive or insulting and is carried out with the intention of stirring up racial hatred or is likely to do so" before it is an offence.
Mr Howard said the compromise would protect the balance between combating racism and the freedom of expression.
Britain also secured agreement from EU justice ministers yesterday on closer co-operation against football hooligans ahead of the European soccer championships in June. Participating EU countries will send police "spotters" to accompany national teams to assist in identifying potential troublemakers.Reuse content