EU announces stepped-up efforts against antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred

The European Commission (EC) and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell adopted on December 6 a communication on “No place for hate: a Europe united against hatred”, a call for action to all Europeans to stand up against hatred and speak up for tolerance and respect, the EC said.

“In recent weeks, we have seen scenes in Europe which we hoped we would never see again. Europe is experiencing an alarming increase in hate speech and hate crime and evidence shows that Jewish and Muslim communities are particularly affected,” the Commission said.

With today’s communication, the EC and Borrell are stepping up their efforts to fight hatred in all its forms, by reinforcing action across a variety of policies, including security, digital, education, culture and sport, the EC said.

This includes additional funding to protect places of worship and will be backed up by the designation of envoys with an explicit mandate to maximise the potential of EU policies to combat hatred.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Europe is a place where diverse cultural and religious identities are honoured.

“Respect and tolerance are the founding values of our societies. Therefore we must stand up against antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred, whenever we encounter it. The dignity and safety of each and every individual in our Union are paramount,” Von der Leyen said.

Věra Jourová, EC Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said: “Since October 7, we have seen scenes in Europe that recall the demons of the past and we have hoped never to see again,” a reference to the sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in Europe since the Hamas terrorist group began its current large-scale attacks on Israel.

“Violent attacks against the Jewish community. European citizens of different background in fear about what could happen to them. This is why we cannot remain silent. We cannot remain passive. Silence leaves space for hatred to grow,” Jourová said.

“Therefore, we act to fill this gap, to be loud and clear that we stand up for our values and for human rights. We step our actions against violence both online and offline,” she said.

The protection of people and public spaces is a priority, the EC said.

The Commission will bring the call for proposals under the Internal Security Fund, initially scheduled for 2024, forward to 2023, putting particular focus on Jewish places of worship, with an increased budget.

The PROTECT programme will be strengthened in 2024 with additional funding for the protection of public spaces and places of worship of all faiths, including an increase of five million euro to address the threats posed from rising antisemitism.

To protect against threats online, the Commission will push to finalise a reinforced Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online before February 2024 to build on the new horizontal obligations for online platforms in the Digital Services Act.

It will also reinforce its cooperation with civil society organisations, experts, trusted flaggers, and public authorities to detect hate speech online.

The EC’s coordinators on anti-racism, on combatting antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, and on combatting anti-Muslim hatred have in the past played an important role in engaging communities and citizens, the EC said.

“This work will now be further strengthened and the coordinators will be upgraded to Envoys, who will have a specific mandate to deepen coordination, including through specific EU funded projects, and to maximise the potential of EU policies to combat hatred, online and offline.”

Knowledge and awareness are key to mutual respect and tolerance. The most powerful vectors of these values are integrated in everyday life – the media, education, culture and sport.

To this end, the EC will support training for journalists on upholding media standards and recognising hate speech and will take forward projects aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity in education, culture and sport.

The European Union will also step up support to fact checkers, within the EU and in the Arab speaking world.

Combating hatred is a global concern and international cooperation is a necessity, the EC said.

“Working closely with those responsible for promoting rights at global, regional and country levels reinforces the credibility and the effectiveness of EU action within and outside the Union: the Commission and the High Representative will reinforce their engagement and networks at all levels, leveraging EU diplomatic work and concrete actions and external partnerships.”

In early 2024, the EC will organise a high-level anti-hatred conference with high-profile participants engaged in the fight against hate and discrimination.

This will be followed with European dialogues for reconciliation, bringing together citizens from across the EU, in particular young people, with decision-makers, experts and members of the most affected communities.

This process will culminate in recommendations on how to build bridges across fractured communities and bring to life the EU’s motto of living “United in diversity”, the EC said.

(Archive photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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