Antisemitism in Europe is on the rise, is deeply rooted and is widespread. Many argue we should be engaging with the broadest possible audience, raising awareness and educating the public at large. These are important and necessary steps.
However, it is impossible to engage locally without a clear message from the highest policy levels on what precisely constitutes antisemitism in the 21st century, and why it is so important to talk about this.
Since 2018, the rotating Austrian and Romanian presidency of the EU has succeeded in placing antisemitism high on Europe’s agenda. In that year, outgoing Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz hosted a first of its kind conference on antisemitism in Vienna. Kurz stated that “Austria has to take responsibility for looking not only at the past, but also at the present and to the future, and must take sustainable steps in the fight against antisemitism and anti-Zionism, so that Jews in Austria, Europe and beyond can live in security.” This sends a clear message that the fight against antisemitism is an EU matter of highest priorities.
Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila hosted a similar conference at the EU in early 2019 under the banner “The Fight Against Antisemitism: A Common Approach to Better Protect Jewish Communities in Europe – from Policy to Action.” The conference emphasized the need to go one step further and to look for solutions and practical measures to combat antisemitism.
No doubt, the pair of high profile conferences set the tone of the discussion on fundamental rights in Europe and placed antisemitism at the center.