EJC Disappointed by European Racism Law

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) welcomes the adoption by European Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers of the “Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia” yet is concerned and disappointed that the text makes no explicit reference to anti-Semitism.

As anti-Semitic attacks are again on the rise in Europe, the EJC would have hoped that this initiative – which was rejected once before in 2003 – would have at least included some overt reference to anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, the EJC salutes the willingness of the German European Union Presidency’s to reach an agreement on this text.

The “Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia” was initially propsed by the European Commission in 2001, and was rejected during a previous meeting of Justice and Home Affairs ministers in 2003, due to some states worries that it would impede on freedom of speech.

The German Presidency of the European Union brought new life to the Framework, and had hoped that it could add a Europe-wide ban on Nazi symbols and Holocaust denial. The version adopted today includes neither.

Justice ministers did agree to punish incitement to hatred or violence against a group or a person that is based on colour, race, national or ethnic origin, by a sentence of between one and three years’ jail. Holocaust denial will only be punished if it incites hate or disturbs public order.

An EJC Spokesperson said, “Anti-Semitism is the oldest form of racism in Europe, and is nowhere near from disappearing. The German Presidency’s initiative is a bold and highly symbolic move, yet should have gone further by directly mentioning the need to legislate against those who incite anti-Semitism, and not just racism and xenophobia.”

“Europe has a special historic responsibility to combat anti-Semitism, and it is a shame that the final version of the Framework Decision did not include this.”

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