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November 23, 2020 2:08 pm

EU Leaders Poised to Step Up Battle Against Antisemitism at Upcoming Brussels Summit

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avatar by Ben Cohen

European Union flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Amio Cajander via Wikimedia Commons.

European Union leaders are set to issue a common declaration against antisemitism at a summit meeting in Brussels in December, with a draft text submitted by Germany currently under consideration.

According to a report published by the German news outlet Welt on Monday, the purpose of the declaration will be “to establish a uniform approach within the international community against any form of hostility towards Jews.”

Germany, which currently holds the presidency of the European Council, has been assertively pushing for member states to adopt common guidelines for combating antisemitism — a phenomenon that has risen year on year in most EU countries.

Under the preamble, “Antisemitism is an attack on a European values,” the draft German text states: “It is our constant, shared responsibility to actively protect and support Jewish life.”

Felix Klein — the German federal government’s commissioner to counter antisemitism — told Welt that the declaration would carry extra significance at a time when the world had been roiled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Right now in the Covid-19 pandemic, one can observe how antisemitic prejudices are being openly lived out online and on the streets,” said Klein, who is understood to have shepherded the draft text of the proposed declaration.

“It is a great success that all 27 member states want to set such an example at a time of conspiracy theories and taboo-busting,” Klein continued.

The declaration is being presented in Brussels as part of a broader effort to upgrade the battle against antisemitism within the EU. According to Klein, antisemitism should be seen as “a cross-cutting issue in which various government agencies and policy areas at local, national and European level should be involved.”

Katharina von Schnurbein — the European Commission coordinator on combatting antisemitism — explained in a separate statement that Jewish groups had played a key role in the draft of the declaration.

“We worked closely with the Jewish organizations and responsible specialist politicians in Europe,” von Schnurbein told Welt. “There is positive progress at the European level, but the effects are not yet reaching European Jews. That is why the EU Commission will present an EU strategy with further concrete measures against antisemitism next year.”

Under a coordinated EU policy against antisemitism, education, police and justice departments around the continent would be provided with the tools to evaluate and prosecute antisemitic acts. EU states would also adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which lists several examples of how prejudice against Jews manifests, among them,“[D]enying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

The EU leaders will meet at the European Council in Brussels on Dec. 10-11 for a summit that will focus on the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and the continuing threat of violent extremism, among other agenda items.

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