WORKING GROUP ON ANTISEMITISM (WGAS)
The European Jewish Congress acts as the Secretariat and Member of the Advisory Board of the European Parliament (EP) Working Group on Antisemitism (WGAS).
The European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism brings together Members of the European Parliament at a cross-party level to improve the way in which EU institutions contribute to combatting antisemitism. WGAS cooperates with all EU institutions, other European Parliament Intergroups, national parliaments and NGOs in its attempt to not only inform about the realities on the ground, but also to react accordingly and take proactive measures to protect those who are affected by the phenomena of antisemitism. WGAS also advocates for the adoption of legislation that will prevent antisemitic behaviour from being normalized going unpunished.
The WGAS was created in 2012, with Claude Moraes MEP (United Kingdom – S&D) as its first Chair. The composition of its Secretariat and Advisory Board has changed over time and WGAS has increased its activities and number of MEPs who have been actively involved since then. Currently, the WGAS Advisory Board is composedof EJC and B’nai B’rith International.
The WGAS has an agreement with the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI) which stipulates the following:
- “ARDI recognises that the WGAS is the primary vehicle used by ARDI to deal with Antisemitism in the European Parliament or addressing any other European Institutions, and/or outside the European Union”;
- ARDI recognises the nomination of the chair or one of the co-chairs of WGAS in the bureau of ARDI to fully involve each group in their mutual and shared activities regarding any matter related to Antisemitism, Holocaust remembrance, or any other activities related to these or any other Jewish issues if related to Antisemitism.”
WGAS issues a quarterly ‘Antisemitic Incidents Report’, which is shared during the working group meetings. The report is prepared by the WGAS Secretariat and lists the major antisemitic incidents reported in the media. The report features as well polls and surveys regarding the increase of antisemitism in Europe, the numbers in terms of emigration, the opinion of Jews on how they are perceived by other Europeans as well as the perception of European citizens towards Jews.
EU COORDINATOR ON COMBATTING ANTISEMITISM
On 1st and 2nd October 2015, the European Commission organized the Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights on “Tolerance and respect: preventing and combating antisemitic and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe.”
The Colloquium aimed at improving mutual cooperation and greater political engagement for the promotion and protection of fundamental rights in Europe. It sought to strengthen dialogue between the EU and international institutions, policy makers, academia and civil society, and deepen the understanding of challenges for fundamental rights on the ground. Another key objective was the identification of gaps and achieving progress on topical fundamental rights issues.
The Colloquium was held in Brussels and brought together more than 300 participants from across the EU: national Ministers, representatives of leading NGOs and international institutions, MEPs and renowned academics and philosophers.
As a result of the conference, First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans appointed Katharina von Schnurbein as European Commission Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism.
WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM
The WGAS has campaigned fervently for the adoption of a working definition of antisemitism at the EU level, as well as for the appointment of an EU Special Envoy and EU Task Force on antisemitism.
Throughout WGAS meetings and events, EJC, B’nai B’rith, and Chairs and Members of the working group have expressed the need for a tool that can be used in order to strengthen judicial and law enforcement authorities in their efforts to identify and prosecute antisemitic attacks more effectively.
These advocacy efforts proved fruitful when the European Parliament adopted the Resolution of 1 June 2017 on combatting antisemitism, with a majority of 479 votes in favour (representing 76% of the Plenary), 101 votes against (16%) and 47 abstentions (7%). 124 MEPs did not vote.
WGAS Chair Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar MEP (Spain – S&D) submitted the text of a Motion for Resolution on Combating Antisemitism to the Plenary and WGAS Vice-chairs Heinz K. Becker MEP (Austria- EPP) and Cecilia Wikström MEP (Sweden – ALDE) endorsed the text on behalf of their respective political groups.