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Beate Winkler, Director of the EUMC

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11th International Leadership Conference of the American Jewish Committee

Washington, May 9 2004

"Confronting Antisemitism - Mobilizing Governments"

Presentation by Beate Winkler, Director of the EUMC

Dear President,
dear Member of Congress,
dear Ambassador,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and privilege for the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) to participate in this important conference of the American Jewish Committee. It gives us a great opportunity to inform each other and to strengthen the transatlantic dialogue in order to reduce antisemitism, discrimination and exclusion - to reduce fear and to build bridges.

The EUMC as a body of the European Union (EU) has spoken out openly on the negative developments in European societies and at the same time has drawn attention to positive trends and perspectives. We have learned from the past and try to give cultural, religious and ethnic diversity recognition, dignity and respect: these are basic elements on which the EU had been established.

The European Union is itself the answer to the Shoa. Never forget: the EU is itself a unique peace project. The miracle happened: former enemies became partners - France and Germany. This miracle is symbolized in the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) itself: I myself am German, and it was a Frenchman, Jean Kahn, former President of the European Jewish Congress who convinced the 15 Heads of States to create the EUMC which opened in 2000 and now has a team of about 30 people.

I. The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC)

The EUMC is an independent agency of the European Union based in Vienna - a suitable place for enlargement and also a reminder for us, as Vienna is home to Simon Wiesenthal - the first person I visited when I arrived as the first staff member of the EUMC in 1998.

The main purpose of the EUMC is to provide the European Institutions and the Member States with objective, reliable, and comparable data at the European level on the phenomena of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism. The EUMC is also required to study the extent and development of the phenomena and manifestations of racism, xenophobia and antisemitism, analyse their causes, consequences and effects, and examine examples of good practice in dealing with them.

The EUMC has established the RAXEN network (European Information Network on Racism and Xenophobia) for data collection in the Member States. The network consists of 15 National Focal Points, one in each Member State. They are collecting data in five priority areas: Employment, Education, Housing, Racist violence (what is commonly known in the USA as "hate crime") and Legislation. In addition to collecting existing data in the Member States, the EUMC initiates scientific research projects, surveys and feasibility studies. Furthermore, the EUMC creates awareness and strengthens international cooperation. One of our key partners is the OSCE. The recent Berlin conference and the resulting Berlin declaration of the OSCE were a great success. It is fully supported by the EUMC recommendations integrated in its two reports on antisemitism published six weeks ago.

Together with President Pat Cox, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) presented these two reports on antisemitism in the EU Member States in 2002-2003 to the European Parliament on March 31. The work is substantial and unique in the European Union; it is the largest piece of research on this issue and has received the full support of the Management Board of the EUMC and the full backing of the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission. The European Parliament for example organized a public hearing on the two reports on the same day of the presentation. These reports had been highly welcomed by its members and they will be the basis for future work. Further examples of initiatives are the European Commission's High Level conference on antisemitism on 19 February 2004 and an internal working group on antisemitism established within the European Commission.

This shows how seriously Europe takes antisemitism and how committed the European Institutions are to tackling this problem at its roots.

Coming back to the reports of the EUMC: This is the first time in the history of the European Union that data on antisemitism have been collected in a systematic way across all 15 Member States of the EU, using common guidelines and validated by independent academics.

It is also the first time in the European Union that two reports have been published at the same time, addressing the same issue from two different but complementary perspectives.

The clear conclusion of our reports is that there is a serious problem to be actively confronted, but that effective action by the EU and Member States working together can tackle the problem effectively.

The reports that I am going to present have mixed messages:

On the one hand, it is clear that Europe has a problem with antisemitism, manifestations of which have been getting more frequent in some parts of the EU over the last two or three years. These manifestations vary in frequency and severity from country to country, but they are enough to cause great distress to many of Europe's 1.2 million Jews and to worry us all. Our democratic principles and values are challenged. In some countries antisemitic incidents such as violence, arson or insults in the street have become more frequent. In some other countries authorities still do not seem to recognize this as a problem and as a result they do not collect data.

On the other hand, there are positive messages too. There are EU countries where there are relatively few incidents and where the local Jewish population does not see antisemitism as a problem, and there are countries where antisemitic attitudes in the general population have been shown to be decreasing, especially among the young people. There is also increasing evidence of good initiatives to combat antisemitism, such as programmes for children in early school years, initiatives of cooperation between Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups, and in some Member States the introduction of tougher legislation against antisemitism and its perpetrators.

II. Two reports

The two new reports give complementary information and support each other. The major report "Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU" is 344 pages long and covers the years 2002 and 2003, up to October. It consists of the most reliable data available (gathered according to 10 categories) collected by our European information network RAXEN. These 15 national reports were then evaluated and validated by an independent academic, in order to assess the quality and availability of the data and identify problem areas and gaps in each country.

The second report "Perceptions of Antisemitism in the EU" consists of the results of the interviews with 35 prominent members of the Jewish community in eight Member States, providing an insight into the viewpoints and experiences of some leading members of the Jewish community. This interview material in the second report, while being of necessity subjective, adds a personal and complementary dimension to the material in the main report, and confirms the real fears within the Jewish community over a resurgence of antisemitism in Europe.

  1. The main results:

    It is not easy to generalize about the situation across the whole EU, because of the variety in the historical circumstances and the different - or lacking - data collection systems. Nevertheless, we can state the following:

    • There are countries where there is evidence of an increase in the regularity of reported incidents of antisemitism over the past two or three years. Such is the case in Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the UK. Incidents range from graffiti and vandalism, through insults on the street and hate speech on the Internet, to serious physical assault and arson. Meanwhile, this has also to be underlined, we have positive developments too. In France, for example, antisemitic incidents have decreased by over 35% in 2003 according to official data. This information could not be integrated in our report.

    • However, it is also clear that in some EU countries, specifically violent acts of antisemitism are relatively rare or virtually unknown (Finland, Luxemburg, Portugal, and Ireland).

    • Furthermore, in several countries - for example, Greece, Italy, Austria, Spain - we have a paradox that while there are relatively few violent incidents, some key social actors use antisemitic language in everyday discourse.

    • A further important issue for us was the identity of the perpetrators of antisemitic activities. Although it is not easy to generalise, we have mainly two groups: young, disaffected, white Europeans, often stimulated by extreme right wing groups. A further source of antisemitism in some countries was young Muslims of North African extraction. Here the reports state clearly that there is a shift.

    • The interviews with the members of the Jewish community reveal their worries and fears as they perceive a more hostile environment in Europe. Some feel that the process of Jewish integration into wider EU society is slowing down. (For example more French Jews are going now to private Jewish schools than ten years ago.) And at the same time, the interviews also show the overwhelming desire of Jewish people to be respected as a European with equal rights and not to be seen merely as "a Jew".

    • Finally, the report identifies many positive developments and many examples of good practice or policies which can be successfully transferred and implemented in other countries, such as traveling exhibitions aimed at young people, inter-religious initiatives to bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians, educational campaigns and films, seminars and cultural events, as well as setting up proper mechanisms for recording antisemitic crimes, and instituting effective legislation against it.

    • Last but not least the report shows that there is a tremendous variety within Member States regarding their routines and practices on the monitoring and collection of data on antisemitic incidents. From this it follows that more work is needed to analyze the extent of the problem. Our job - the job of the EUMC - is to inform and guide policy making in the area of xenophobia and racism. But any policy conclusions can only be based on solid facts, sound research and well-grounded information. At the moment, full comparability between Member States on this issue is not yet possible.
  2. Broader issues

    The situation in the Middle East clearly has an impact on antisemitic patterns of behaviour in Europe - after the Israeli incursion into Jenin, for example, there was a marked rise in antisemitic incidents in Europe. Our report makes a clear statement: criticism towards Israel can become antisemitic, but it is not so per se. The context must always be considered. But, for example, the demonization of Israel and the denial of its right to exist are clearly antisemitic in our view.

  3. Proposals for action

    So what conclusions do we draw from this in policy terms? Remember that an important part of the brief of the EUMC is to aid in European policy making. One vital question must be addressed by all of us. "How will Europe deal with cultural, ethnic and religious diversity in the future? How will Jews, Christians and Muslims live together? Many people have fear for the future and are looking for simple answers to complex questions. It is this fear and this climate - a climate where often members of the minority communities have to justify themselves that they are not terrorists - which can be exploited by extremists and fundamentalists.

    In order to create change we have to turn words into actions.

    First of all, we need actions in:

    Political leadership:
    Leadership is crucial in changing attitudes. Europe's political leaders must make it very clear that they do not accept antisemitism and racism. And here we need, for example, election campaigns for the European Parliament which are based on principles of Human Rights: "Zero tolerance for racism, antisemitism and xenophobia." The Charter of the European Political Parties signed by all parties in the European Parliament can be a very useful tool to this end.

    Strong and clear legal framework:
    We need a strong legal framework supporting policy actions in all Member States. The European Commission has already prepared new legislation that will apply in all Member States (the so-called framework decision), but this still needs the agreement of and the implementation by the Member States.

    Efficient data-collection:
    In order to develop targeted policies it is necessary to have accurate data. Member States need urgently to establish efficient data collection systems in order to record accurately incidents of antisemitism.

    The importance of education
    Education and training must be organised so that teachers and professionals have the knowledge to deal with cultural ethnic religious diversity in the most efficient and responsible way:

    Intercultural and interfaith dialogue
    Religious groups and all NGOs which deal with cultural issues should strengthen joint initiatives for religious and intercultural understanding. We have much more in common than what divides us.

    In particular the interfaith dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews has to be strengthened in order to build bridges and work on common values. These must be based on the respect for Human Rights, individual dignity and the rule of law. It is easy to forget that Abraham was the founding father of all three religions.

    Good practice
    There are so many positive projects and initiatives from which we can learn from each other for each other so that the situation can be improved easily - for example, mediation in schools, such as in France, teaching different religions with their common values like the Abraham Project in Germany, diversity training for teachers, professionals such as in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands.

III. Commitment

These reports have received the full support of the Management Board of the EUMC. The scale of this project and the fact that our work has the full backing of the European Parliament and the European Commission indicates how seriously Europe takes the issue of antisemitism and how committed we are to tackling this problem at its roots.

There is clear indication, and we are convinced, that these reports will stimulate a broader public debate about antisemitism in the EU, and lead to effective policies across the Union. There are many examples of good practice and effective legislation in a number of Member States which, if implemented across the Union, could tackle the problem effectively.

We need sensitivity and broad commitment: it is important to listen to the fears of the Jewish communities, but we also have to identify, and deal with, the source of the perpetrators' hatred.

We need the courage and commitment of political leaders across the EU to turn words into action, and we need new coalitions between politicians, intellectuals, journalists, teachers and many others in order to overcome hate, discrimination and exclusion. Antisemitism can and must be fought jointly to make sure that it never again gains a foothold in Europe. For all of us, it must be clear: Jews and Jewish communities - and the other ethnic, religious, cultural communities, too! - are valued and respected members of our European societies, and we must ensure that they are able to feel as such. Together we have to overcome the thinking in terms of "us and them".

We can ensure that Europe gives a robust and clear response to any manifestations of antisemitism within the Union. Clear political leadership, supported by legal and administrative measures - such as we have outlined - will make it plain that all Europeans - whatever their religion or ethnic origin - have equal rights in the European Union and that the Union will work hard to ensure those rights can be exercised peacefully, and that all the various communities in Europe can live peacefully side by side.

Our watchwords are - credibility, honesty, transparency and capability. Only by assuring that our work has all these attributes will we earn the confidence of Europe's citizens and ensure that we fulfil our mandate successfully.

The decision of the 15 European Heads of State in December 2003 to extend our mandate making the EUMC the Human Rights Agency for Europe we take as an immense compliment. We are convinced that we will be worthy of the challenge.

It is the greatest achievement of the European Union that conflict between Member States is now inconceivable. It would be an even greater achievement if conflicts betweens groups of European citizens, racism and antisemitism, could also become inconceivable. Mutual respect for each others human rights must be the basis for this.

Now our first priority is the implementation of our recommendations which are in accordance with the Berlin Declaration of the OSCE. We have elaborated a strategy how it can support the implementation of its recommendations: words have to be turned into actions as soon as possible:

We are currently identifying the specific organizations or public authorities in the 25 Member States and in the European Union Institutions, which are responsible for the implementation of the different recommendations of our report. Each organization will be addressed and asked to implement the specific recommendations in its field of competence. In addition we will seek information on good practices. The process will be monitored by the EUMC.

In this way, the EUMC will

  • Support effectively the implementation of each recommendation in all the Member States;

  • Create synergies and improve the transfer of knowledge;

  • Mainstream the fight against antisemitism in the Member States and the European Union.

Words have to be turned into actions. We will be measured on this. Words have to become reality.

IV. Conclusion

It is clear that antisemitism manifests itself in new forms but with long historical, religious, psychological and political roots. The current situation regarding antisemitism in some European countries cannot be linked only to the situation in the Middle East.

A different approach in our societies is necessary: an approach based on inclusion, value, respect of differences. An approach, which integrates our past and our memory; A memory, which enables us to work towards a culture of respect and a culture of healing for which the Jewish community waits until today.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to present to you our work and our mission, the mission of the EUMC, a unique body of the European Union.