The European Union has said it will extend the fight against antisemitism across all policy areas in a declaration welcomed by Jewish leaders on the continent.
The announcement commits all levers of the Brussels-based organisation to both the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and to creating a Europe-wide strategy to address Jew hatred.
Jewish representatives said it was “a step in the right direction” as it praised the bloc “and specifically the German [rotating] presidency” for obliging all EU institutions to consider antisemitism in all of its measures and decisions.
In December 2018, a giant survey by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights of 15,000 Jews across the continent and found an alarming rise in antisemitism and this week’s statement, supported by all 27 member states, spells out that anti-Jewish bigotry constitutes an attack on European values.
Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission, said the Council’s decision reaffirms Europe’s commitment to fight antisemitism. “Today’s declaration recognises, with great concern, the rise in threats towards Jewish people, both online and offline,” he said.
“It calls for much needed decisive actions. It reiterates that Member States have a duty to ensure the security of Jewish communities and institutions. It also acknowledges the importance of the IHRA definition as a guiding tool for better identifying and addressing this scourge.”
He said the Commission would “present a comprehensive EU Strategy on combating against antisemitism in 2021” as Jewish leaders welcomed the declaration.
“The EU and, specifically, the German presidency, deserve praise for mainstreaming the fight against antisemitism,” said Daniel Schwammenthal of the American Jewish Committee’s Brussels office. “If properly implemented, this could bring about real progress.”
The European Commission’s 2019 “Eurobarometer” showed a striking discrepancy of perception of antisemitism in Europe, he said. While nine in ten Jews said it had significantly risen in five years, only a third of the general public agreed.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of the Conference of European Rabbis said it was “a welcome step in the right direction” but did not go far enough in key areas that could affect the Jewish way of life.
“We are dismayed that it does not protect the customs and practices of religious communities that operate peacefully and true to EU values,” he said. “Without a guarantee of freedom of faith for Jewish communities in Europe, there is no guarantee for a Jewish future.”
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