Following the unanimous adoption of the “Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism and the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe” on 6 December 2018, the European Commission has created a working group on antisemitism within the existing High-level Member States expert group on Racism and Xenophobia to implement the declaration.
The aim is to support Member States in the adoption of “a holistic strategy to prevent and fight all forms of antisemitism as part of their strategies on preventing racism, xenophobia, radicalization and violent extremism”, in line with the Council declaration by the end of 2020. Article 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Council Declaration stress the need to include education, formal and non-formal, in the response and prevention of antisemitism.
On June 20th 2019, the first working group focused on the issue of the security of Jewish communities was chaired by Ms. Katharina von Schnurbein, EC Coordinator on combating Antisemitism.
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, formally opened the first meeting of the Working Group, which focused on the pressing issue of the security of Jewish communities, institutions and citizens. The meeting brought together representatives of national law enforcement authorities and national special envoys on antisemitism with representatives of Jewish communities from the respective countries and Jewish umbrella organisations. Victor Micula, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania on behalf of the Romanian Presidency, the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator (EU CTC), different Commission services, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), Europol, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also participated to the meeting.
According to the second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU, carried out by the FRA, nearly half (47 %) of all survey respondents worry about becoming a victim of an antisemitic verbal insult or harassment in the next 12 months, while over one third (40 %) worry about being physically attacked in that same period. On average, in all 12 EU countries surveyed by FRA, more than half of all respondents (56 %) worry that a family member or other people close to them would be harassed or insulted in the next 12 months because they are Jewish, with 50 % worrying about physical antisemitic attacks against their family members or close friends. Across all EU Member States surveyed, half of the respondents (49 %) at least sometimes wear, carry or display items that could identify them as Jewish. Of those, over 71 % avoid wearing, carrying or displaying such items – at least occasionally – in order to remain safe. Most respondents (70 %) consider that the efforts of their government to combat antisemitism are not effective. Almost half of the respondents (54 %) assess their governments’ efforts to ensure the security of Jewish communities positively.
The aim of this meeting of the Working Group was to exchange best practices provided by national and international actors as well as the Jewish community in order to support Member States’ efforts to ensure safety and security for their Jewish communities and premises.
The 2nd meeting of the working group on antisemitism took place on the 10th and 11th of December 2019 and had as focus – “Education about Jewish life, antisemitism and the Holocaust”.
According to the 2019 Eurobarometer on “Perceptions of antisemitism”, 68% of Europeans feel that people in their country are not well informed about the history, customs and practices of national Jewish people in their country and only 4 in 10 Europeans think the Holocaust is sufficiently taught in school. Furthermore, according to the 2019 study drawing from the FRA survey on Young Jewish Europeans: perceptions and experiences of antisemitism, young Jewish Europeans report that 24 % of the most serious incident of antisemitic harassment were perpetrated by a work or school colleague.
It is essential to revisit education about Jewish life, antisemitism and the Holocaust in a holistic way. With this in mind, the second meeting examined how to prevent, address and respond to antisemitism in and through education. An overview of different challenges and existing tools were shared with participants in preparation for the meeting.
The aim of the meeting was to exchange best practices and share experiences to support Member States’ efforts to deliver the necessary education to prevent, address and respond to antisemitism. It brings together representatives of national ministries of education and national special envoys on antisemitism, representatives of national Jewish communities and Jewish umbrella organisations, as well as relevant international organisations. Concrete tools to The Working Group on Antisemitism Justice and Consumers developed holistic strategies for education that were shared with Member States.
The third meeting took place on the 25th and 26th March 2020 and focused on – “Using the IHRA definition of antisemitism – Data-collection, Training and support for victims of antisemitism”.
In the Council Declaration Member States agreed for those “that have not done so yet to endorse the non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism (….) as a useful guidance tool in education and training, including law enforcement authorities in their efforts to identify and investigate antisemitic attacks more efficiently and effectively”. The definition facilitates a common understanding of how antisemitism manifests itself today in different forms. Proper reporting and recording of antisemitic hate crimes and incidents is essential to better measure the extent of antisemitism affecting Jewish communities and support to the victims of antisemitic crimes, harassment and abuse.
Good quality data is needed for governments and civil society to be able to formulate effective responses. In 2018, still several EU Member States lacked official data on reported antisemitic incidents. This working group meeting aims to help Member States and Jewish communities to use the IHRA working definition in the process of collecting data on antisemitism, provide training for law enforcement and judiciary and look into ways to better support victims of antisemitism. A victim-centered approach will foster trust between state authorities and Jewish communities in addressing antisemitism.