The Council of the European Union approved a declaration on the fight against anti-Semitism in a move hailed by Israel as a “breakthrough.”
The declaration passed on Thursday in Brussels also calls for the development of a common security approach to better protect Jewish communities and Jewish institutions in Europe.
The proposal was promoted by Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country holds the rotating Presidency of the European Council, which is made up of the heads of state or government of the member states, and was supported by EU Member States.
In its declaration, the Council acknowledges that Jewish communities in some EU countries feel particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks, following an increase in violent incidents in recent years. It notes that anti-Semitic hatred remains widespread, as confirmed by the EU’s 2018 Fundamental Rights Agency report on anti-Semitism.
The declaration calls on member states to “adopt and implement a holistic strategy to prevent and fight all forms of anti-Semitism, as part of their strategies on preventing racism, xenophobia, radicalization and violent extremism,” according to a statement issued by the EU Council. It also calls on member states to increase their efforts to ensure security for Jewish communities, institutions, and citizens.
The declaration also expresses concern that the situation for Jewish people has not substantially improved and that anti-Semitic hatred remains widespread, as well as that anti-Semitism can be disguised under the cover of political views. It also calls for an emphasis on the importance of Holocaust remembrance and education for all.
Although the declaration makes no mention of Israel, Zionism, or the Jewish state, it does call on members states that have not done so yet “to endorse the non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism employed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).”
The IHRA, in its guidelines for the definition of anti-Semitism, lists “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” as well as “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” It also lists “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations” as a form of anti-Semitism.
Israel hailed the EU Council decision, with the Foreign Ministry calling it a “breakthrough” and offering praise for those involved.
In a brief statement, the ministry said the most significant parts of the decision were the funding of protection for Jewish communities, “deepening the battle against hateful anti-Semitic discourse online,” and the call for EU countries to fully adopt the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism.
The European Jewish Congress called the declaration “unprecedented” in a statement praising its passage.
“This declaration is an important step in the fight against antisemitism because it provides a positive and concrete roadmap for the safeguarding of Jewish communities and strengthens the legislative tools for governments to fight hate and intolerance. Now we hope that each EU Member State will take the required and appropriate action, and that the European Commission and the European Parliament will monitor the progress made by each state against anti-Semitism,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in a statement.
“Today, we hope that the implementation of the provisions contained in this declaration will severely restrict the space for hate and that our Jewish communities will feel more safe in Europe,” he said.
The World Jewish Congress said in a statement that it worked for several months with the Austrian government and European institutions, as well as the EJC, to draft the declaration. It praised the council for passing the declaration and called on the EU to appoint a Coordinator on Combating Anti-Semitism.