EU co-ordinator for combating anti-Semitism presents aggressive strategy

PRAGUE (JTA) – Tackling online hate speech, implementing hate crime legislation and education are among the priorities of the European Union’s newly appointed co-ordinator for combating anti-Semitism.

Katharina von Schnurbein presented her strategy for addressing growing levels of anti-Semitism in Europe in Prague on Tuesday, at her first meeting with special envoys from the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, France and other countries as well as from several international organizations including the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

“We have very good legislation on the EU level which, for instance, prohibits Holocaust denial. But this legislation has only been implemented in 13 out of the EU’s 28 member states. So the European Commission is now moving to ensure proper implementation of those laws,” von Schnurbein told JTA.

“There is also a very worrying spike in online hate speech. We are already in touch with IT companies so that we can come up with a common solution to this Europe-wide,” she said.

The co-ordinator, appointed by the European Commission to the newly created post in November, said she also was planning to focus on education that places more emphasis on civic values. The EU should also adopt a common definition of anti-Semitism, she said.

“We will now be in touch with Jewish communities and organizations in EU member states so that we know what their concerns are and also to listen to what they suggest in terms of solutions,” she said.

“This is the right time for commitments,” the Israeli ambassador for combating anti-Semitism, Gideon Behar, told the meeting. “The situation for Jews in Europe is deteriorating, and we might have to start asking whether Jewish life can continue to exist in Europe.”

Some, however, noted that in light of growing levels of hate speech and anti-Semitism in Europe, the EU should act faster.

“The appointment of Katharina von Schnurbein to the post is the result of the Let My People Live conference which was held in Prague a year ago. I would have foreseen a much quicker reaction,” Tomas Kraus of the Federation of Czech Jewish communities said.

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