European Commission speaks-up against anti-Semitism in Europe

In an opinion article yesterday (6.8.2015) in, the European Commission writes that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission and Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, urge community, religious and political leaders to counter racist and hateful discourse and lead by example. “We must address the fact that racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic crimes and hate speech go unpunished in some countries, and the problem of politicians who trivialise or ignore the seriousness of hate speech and hate crime,” they write.

In the article, the two Commissioners refer to a survey by EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013.

According to the survey one in two Jewish respondents saw a significant increase in antisemitism in the last five years. 75% of the respondents felt that online antisemitism – commonly expressed by denial or trivialisation of the Holocaust – is a widespread phenomenon. Since then the situation has hardly improved.

The article states that in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January, the EU acted fast to formulate a European Security Agenda. The Agenda was published in the form of a Communication on 28 April 2015 (COM (2015) 185)).

The European Agenda on Security sets out how EU can bring added value to support the Member States in ensuring security. It prioritises the fight against terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime as interlinked areas with a strong cross-border dimension, where EU action can make a real difference.

While not explicitly dealing with the fight against anti-Semitism, the Agenda outlines measures to tackle radicalization among youth influenced by extreme and racist ideologies.

“Education, youth participation, interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue, as well as employment and social inclusion, have a key role to play in preventing radicalisation by promoting common European values, fostering social inclusion, enhancing mutual understanding and tolerance,” the Agenda states.

The Commission calls now on those EU countries that have not yet fully implemented EU legislation on combating hate speech, hate crime and more specifically the denial of the Holocaust, to bolster their laws and to prosecute these offences.

“Never again should we tolerate anti-Semitic or racist discourse. Never again should European and other Jews feel that they have to emigrate,” states the article by the Commissioners.

In Malmö, the third biggest city in Sweden, the measures against anti-Semitism will come too late. A once thriving Jewish community dating back to the 19th century has in recent years been reduced to a few hundred members. Threats and daily harassments in streets and schools have forced many to leave the city.

Timmermans and Jourová mention also in their article that a conference on the theme “Tolerance and Respect: Preventing and combating anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe” – will take place in October 2015 in Brussels.

“Together with a host of stakeholders, we will reflect about the underlying reasons for the increase of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents in Europe and look at the role of the EU and international institutions, member states, local authorities, civil society, community and religious leaders, the media, education and employment in addressing these phenomena and developing a culture of inclusive tolerance and respect in the European Union.”

In parallel the European Parliament has established a Working Group on Antisemitism. The group brings together more than 80 Members of the European Parliament at a cross-party level to improve the way in which the EU combats Antisemitism.

The Brussels Times

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