European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová recently held the first meeting of the bloc’s working group on antisemitism since Brussels formed a special body that would look specifically look into attacks against Jews in December of last year.
Designed to bolster the EU’s stated goal of curbing the rise of antisemitism across the bloc, the working group will aid each of the 28 members of the European Union to uphold their commitments to adopting tough national strategies that will help combat hate crimes and discrimination that target Europe’s Jews.
Part of the overall plan is to create a common security approach to protect Jewish communities and institutions from both violent extremism and various forms of discrimination and by the end of next year. Holocaust denial and antisemitic hate speech have been outlawed across the whole of Europe for the last decade, but serious questions remain about how each individual country has approached the implementation of the laws.
Antisemitic attacks in Europe have grown exponentially in recent years. In the UK, the NGO Community Security Trust recorded 1,652 antisemitic incidents in 2018, including 123 involving violence. In a recent report by France’s National Human Rights Advisory Committee, antisemitic acts in France increased by more than 70% in 2018 compared to the previous year. Similarly, in 2018, Germany experienced a 20% rise in antisemitic crimes, including 62 violent attacks.
“The Commission is acting to counter the rise of antisemitism. To fight Holocaust denial and to guarantee that Jews have the full support of the authorities to keep them safe,” said Jourová.
The working group combines the expertise of national law enforcement authorities, Jewish community leaders, representatives from Jewish coalitions, and special envoys on antisemitism.
In order to monitor antisemitism, the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) collects and analyses data on antisemitic hate crimes. In the most recent report on the experiences and perceptions of antisemitism by the FRA, 85% of Jewish respondents consider antisemitism and racism to be one of the most paramount problems across affecting the EU.
Similarly, 89% of the respondents believe that antisemitism has increased over the past five years in the country they live in.
What is particularly interesting from the report is that serious antisemitic incidents are largely unreported which brings to light that the real figures on antisemitism in Europe are likely to be much higher. More than three in four (77%) Jewish respondents say they felt discriminated against. In addition, 52% of those same Jewish respondents were not confident that reporting the incident would improve their situation.
The lack of reporting of hate crimes targeting Jews, as well as a lack of faith in the European and national justice systems by the bloc’s Jewish communities, casts some doubt on the ability of Jourová’s working group to actually and effectively combat antisemitism as there is an immediate need for a comprehensive common security approach is needed to guarantee the safety of Europe’s Jews.