NEW YORK – After years of working with the leadership of the European Union on codifying measures to fight antisemitism at the European, Member State and local levels, the World Jewish Congress applauds the European Council’s adoption of a Council of the European Union declaration to mainstream the prevention and countering of antisemitism in all its forms.
This critical step comes under the leadership of the German presidency of the Council. The Council of the European Union is comprised of government ministers from the 27 EU Member States, who meet to make laws and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed upon by the Council, the main decision-making body of the EU. The European Council is comprised of the heads of state or government of the EU Member States, as well as the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission. The declaration makes the fight against antisemitism a priority of Europe’s executive branch.
As part of its ongoing work to combat antisemitism, the World Jewish Congress has for years worked closely with European government authorities and institutions, as well as Jewish communities across the continent, to emphasize the importance of EU leadership in this area, resulting in the development of the declaration.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder welcomed the declaration: “Europe has a serious and terrifying antisemitism problem, and it’s high time that the European Union, its Member States and local authorities direct real resources to it. The adoption of this declaration by the European Council demonstrates that Germany in its Council of the European Union presidency and the EU leadership as a whole recognize the danger that antisemitism and hate create and the threat to society and safety when left unaddressed.
“This declaration is a significant step forward in making Europe a better place for Jews. The responsibility now falls on Member States to apply the policies and understanding laid out by the European Union in each of their countries, to ensure that the scourge of antisemitism is dealt with, that perpetrators are prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law, and that our next generation learns that hatred is unacceptable.”
In its conclusions adopted at its December 10-11 meeting, the European Council writes, “The European Council condemns all forms of attacks on the freedoms of expression and religion or belief, including antisemitism, racism and xenophobia, and underlines the importance of combating incitement to hatred and violence, as well as intolerance. It welcomes the adoption of the Council Declaration on mainstreaming the fight against antisemitism across policy areas.”
The declaration calls antisemitism “an attack on European values,” reading: “Any form of antisemitism, intolerance or racist hatred is incompatible with the values and aims of the European Union and its Member States and must be addressed through decisive action at European and national level.”
The declaration affirms that it is Member States’ “permanent, shared responsibility to actively protect and support Jewish life.” It acknowledges the increasing prevalence of antisemitism in Europe, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and that “an increase in antisemitic incidents and hate crime is a cause of great concern.” The declaration calls on Member States to engage in “continuous dialogue with the Jewish community with a view to ensuring appropriate levels of security awareness, specific training for security staff and law enforcement officers, exchange of best practices and thorough implementation of appropriate measures to ensure the security of Jewish institutions.”
Regarding the growth of antisemitic hate speech, particularly its dissemination online, “crimes committed online should be punished just as crimes offline are and must be adequately addressed by means of effective prosecution and other measures,” the declaration reads. “Illegal hate speech and terrorist content online must be removed promptly and consistently by internet service providers, in according with the relevant legal and non-legal framework.”
The declaration also calls for the systematic collection of data on antisemitic incidents so as to “develop, implement and monitor progress on tailored comprehensive strategies and education instruments,” and for increased Holocaust education as “one of the most important tools to prevent antisemitic prejudices.”
This declaration comes two years after, and reaffirms, the Council of the European Union’s December 6, 2018, declaration, under the leadership of the Austrian presidency of the Council, on the fight against antisemitism and the development of a common security approach to protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe. As per the new declaration, the European Commission Working Group on antisemitism will continue to support Member States in implementing the 2018 declaration.
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