• 20-04-2021 12:22

EU/Presidency: First-ever EU strategy on antisemitism this year - commissioner

Lisbon, April 20, 2021 (Lusa) - The European Union will by the end of this year present the bloc's first-ever strategy on antisemitism, which will cover all EU policy areas, Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for 'promoting the European way of life', announced on Tuesday.

"I'm proud to reconfirm this commitment that we will present later this year, the first ever European strategy on antisemitism," Schinas said at the opening of a 'High-Level Conference on Protection against Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance' organised as part of Portugal's presidency of the Council of the EU.

According to the commissioner, the strategy "will provide a comprehensive framework to complement and support member states' effort on preventing and combating antisemitism, educating on the Holocaust remembrance and fostering Jewish life in Europe, and will bring together in a holistic manner the various EU policy areas in line with the council declaration, namely security, education, data collection, integration measures, inclusion and international aspects."

The commissioner also noted that the latest report by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency, released last September, counted more than 3,000 antisemitic incidents across the bloc in 2019, despite the fact that the Jewish community represents less than 4.5% of the EU's total population.

Schinas said that the commission led by Ursula von der Leyen is also committed to stepping up action against racism, with significant funding in education policy and external action, as well as through police cooperation,

"For the next seven years, we will have a new set of standing Citizens Equality Rights and Values program, which will seek to protect and promote open rights based, democratic, equal and inclusive societies based on the rule of law," he said.

The new programme is to receive €1.55 billion in funding, up from the previous €640 million, making it "the biggest ever EU program for supporting fundamental rights inside the EU."

The commissioner pointed out, however, that efforts in this area are not new. He cited the 2008 framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia, which "criminalised for the first time hate crime and hate speech and defined as public incitement to violence or hatred on the basis of certain characteristics, including race, colour, religion, descent, national or ethnic origin, and through our high-level group on combating racism and xenophobia."

In 2016, again, there was a code of conduct for the fight against online hate speech, which in turn has enabled an increase in the removal rate of hate content to over 70% from the 28% figure when the phenomenon was first monitored.

The commissioner also mentioned the Digital Services Act, approved in December, which analyses the responsibility of online platforms and makes legally binding some aspects that are already part of the voluntary code of conduct, such as the creation of a warning and action mechanism or the cooperation of bloggers in moderating content.

Finally there is the EU Roma strategic framework for equality, inclusion and participation, adopted in October, which sets out EU and member states' policies in this area for the next decade, to prevent and punish discrimination against Roma, segregation in education and housing and prejudice and stereotyping of the community.

Schinas recalled the debate that took place in the EU after the creation of the 'promoting the European way of life' portfolio, on how exactly this could be defined, stating that he himself never had "any doubt" about its validity.

"The treaty reminds us that the European Union is founded on the respect for human dignity in a society in which pluralism, nondiscrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail," he said. "This is the essence, this is the DNA of our union defending the symbol, but the central premise that everybody matters in Europe, that none should be left behind and that all should have access to the same rights, securities and opportunities as the president herself stressed a few days ago at the European Anti-Racism Summit.

"This is the kind of Europe we want to build and this is our mission making good on Europe's promise for all Europeans," he concluded.