The European Union will set out a comprehensive strategy to combat anti-Semitism this year as part of a €1.5 billion programme to support fundamental rights across the bloc, Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said on Tuesday (20 April).
The plan was confirmed by Schinas, the European Commission vice-president responsible for ‘promoting the European way of life’ at the opening of a High-Level Conference on Protection against Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance, organised by the Portuguese EU presidency.
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,” said Schinas.
The question of tackling anti-Semitism and other racist behaviour has risen up the EU’s agenda in the wake of a spike in racism prompted by the COVID pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter campaign following the murder in the United States last year of George Floyd.
Last December, EU leaders signed a declaration urging European governments to impose harsher punishments for online hate crimes and anti-Semitism.
“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,” Schinas said.
The new programme is to receive €1.55 billion in funding, up from the previous €640 million, making it “the biggest ever EU programme for supporting fundamental rights inside the EU,” he added.
For her part, United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said the EU and the wider international community needed to “seize the moment” to support the campaigning movement against the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in Europe and worldwide.
Anti-Semitism, as well as prejudice and discrimination against Muslims and other religious groups, and Chinese people, has increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seen the spread of a raft of conspiracy theories.
The pandemic had created “fertile ground for the escalation of xenophobic and antisemitic practices and discourses,” Francisco André, Portugal’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, said at the conference.
A recent Eurobarometer found that 36% of the general public think that anti-Semitism is increasing, while an FRA survey of Jews revealed that almost 90% of Jewish respondents have this view.
Prior to the pandemic, the latest report by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, published last September, counted more than 3,000 antisemitic incidents across the bloc in 2019.