The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has backed calls for the setting up of a special committee of the newly-elected European Parliament to fight extremism and anti-Semitism and praised German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier for taking the lead on the issue.
“It would be more just a symbolic gesture if the European lawmakers decided to create a permanent body that would focus on how to fight the growth of extremist groups in the EU. Europe has no choice: it must act now against those forces who blatantly disregard its core values, and it must do so before it is too late,” WJC president Ronald S. Lauder said.
The newly elected European Parliament, whose members are directly elected by the people in the 28 EU member states, convened for the first time this week in Strasbourg. A significantly increased number of candidates from extremist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic parties was elected last May, and the WJC and other groups have urged European leaders to address the problem urgently and to come up with a strategy to fight extremism, the WJC website said.
“The future of European Jewry is a stake if these forces are not reined in. Extremists must not be allowed to set the agenda in Europe,” Lauder said.
In an op-ed published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau on July 2, Steinmeiner urged a Europe-wide minimum threshold to prevent a splinter groups, such as the neo-Nazi NPD party in Germany, from entering the European assembly.
Lauder endorsed this call: “The European Parliament is a key institution of the European Union. It should not become the tribune of fanatics and extremists who are able to form parliamentary caucuses and get taxpayers’ money to further their objectionable goals. Therefore, the introduction of an electoral threshold makes sense, and clearly, the German experience with it is encouraging as it has kept extremist parties out of the legislature for many, many decades.
“We hope that other EU leaders also grasp the nettle and give the fight against extremism the priority it deserves,” Lauder said.