Bulgaria among 11 EU countries lacking official data on anti-Semitic incidents – European rights agency

Bulgaria was among 11 European Union countries missing official data on anti-Semitic incidents for some years, according to a new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

In the report, on official data on anti-Semitism in the EU in the period 2006 to 2016, FRA said that the Bulgarian government had informed it that between 2009 and 2011, three people were convicted on charges that concerned spreading anti-Semitism and National Socialism.

“No data were available for the period 2012–2014. There have been no documented cases of anti-Semitism for the years 2015 and 2016,” the report said in the section on Bulgaria.

No unofficial data was available at the time the report was compiled, FRA said.

The report emerged a few weeks after the Bulgarian government appointed, on October 18, a National Co-ordinator for Combating Anti-Semitism. That same day, Bulgaria’s government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, making Bulgaria one of the first EU countries to do so.

FRA said that it continues to point to the problems of limited data in its latest annual overview of anti-Semitism data from across the EU, as it remembers the wave of violent anti-Jewish events of ‘Kristallnacht’ on November 9 1938.

Without such data, efforts to combat anti-Semitism will remain general and untargeted, FRA said.

The report reveals how official data on reported antisemitic incidents in 2016 were missing in 11 EU member states.

“Large-scale under-reporting by victims and different national approaches to data collection combine to frustrate efforts to understand the extent, nature and characteristics of anti-Semitism across the EU that policy makers need.”

Nevertheless, in some EU countries, Jewish and general population surveys have been carried out, albeit using different approaches. Combined with the data that does exist, they show that anti-Semitism remains a serious concern which requires action, FRA said.

Therefore, greater efforts to tackling under-reporting by encouraging victims and witnesses to report anti-Semitism is key, the agency said.

“In addition, authorities need systems in place to record such incidents.”

Data collection on hate crime, including anti-Semitism at the national level also needs improving, FRA said.

“Here FRA’s compendium of practices for combating hate crime which has examples of how some Member States are recording hate crime could help. FRA also assists Member States in improving recording and data collection of hate crime, within the EU’s High Level Group on combating Racism, Xenophobia and other forms of Intolerance.”

National victimisation surveys, similar to the one the Agency carried out among Jews in the EU in 2012 and is repeating in 2018, can also guide member states in the fight against anti-Semitism, the agency said.

“Education also has a vital role to play in fostering tolerance and challenging prejudices. Civic education, and learning from and teaching about the past, should become part of school curricula.

“This would help promote diversity, tolerance and respect for others from an early age. It would instil empathy, foster inter-cultural dialogue and understanding, and help put an end to age-old bigotries.”

Through greater efforts to encourage reporting, better data and understanding, EU countries can drive progress in effectively preventing and combating anti-Semitism.

The updated report compiles available data on antisemitic incidents collected by international, governmental and non-governmental sources, from 1 January 2006 until 31 December 2016. No official data on reported antisemitic incidents in 2016 were available for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Sweden by the time this report was compiled.

The report is the latest in a yearly series on data collection on anti-Semitism published by FRA and its predecessor, the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).

(Photo, taken in a street in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia in September 2017, with graffiti reading, in translation, ‘Hitler was right’: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.