The difficult challenge of European Union between fears and hate

The horrible images since the attacks to women in Cologne and then the reprisal and the violence perpetrated by German extreme right extremists , hooligans , the xenophobic movement Pegida, are a bomb that risks to explode triggered by opposite hates and extremisms with circular reactions. Mala tempora currunt, it is the case to say that. In a recent analysis the EU Parliament shows the EU action to fight anti- semitism and islamophobia.

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Anti-Semitism and islamophobia

Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim attitudes are obviously separate phenomena but they both represent hatred and hostility towards a particular community, according to the EU analysis . The main perpetrators of anti-Semitic incidents are neo-Nazis, far-right or far-left sympathisers, Muslim fundamentalists, according to a report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

Anti-Semitic behaviour is  characterised by trivialisation of the Holocaust, glorification of the Nazi past. It includes verbal and physical violence; threats; insults of Jews going to synagogues; harassment of rabbis, repeated attacks on Jews wearing symbols of their religion, anti-Semitic bullying in schools and damage to property.

Recent anti-Muslim rhetoric often associates Muslims with terrorism and extremism under the pretext of the “war on terror”, according to an OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) report.  Furthermore, Muslims are considered a threat to national identity and a group whose culture is incompatible with human rights and democracy. Circular reactions would be worrying, according to the report: the incidence of anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents increases following terrorist attacks, and on the anniversaries of such attacks.  Often there are attacks against mosques, community centres and Muslim families' homes, as well as attacks against women wearing headscarves. After Israel's attack on Gaza in summer 2014 a report by  the International Network Against Cyber Hate and the Ligue Internationale contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme from November 2014 shows that the number of recorded physical, verbal and internet-based anti-Semitic incidents rose in 10 EU Member States. In the meantime, Anti-Muslim incidents increased as well following the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. According to the French Observatory on Islamophobia 222 anti-Muslim acts took place in the first quarter of 2015, which represents a 500% increase compared to 37 in the same period in 2014. While a Eurobarometer survey shows that Muslims are faced with the lowest levels of social acceptance among all religious groups. Just 61% of respondents would be totally comfortable with a colleague at work being Muslim, and only 43% comfortable if their adult child had a relationship with a Muslim person.

The EU action

The decision framework forces the member states to penalise public incitement to racist violence or hatred (hate speech), and consider racist or xenophobic motivation behind all crimes (hate crime) as an aggravating circumstance. The decision also includes provision for making denial of the Holocaust a criminal offence. But only 13 member states have fully implemented this provision in their national law. An audiovisual media services EU directive established that member states have to ensure that media services do not contain any incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality. Furthermore, the EU Commission appointed two coordinators Katharina von Schnurbein for anti-Semitism and David Friggieri for anti-Muslim hatred.

While last November the EU Parliament approved a resolution to prevent the radicalisation and it stressed the  need to fight islamophobia and antisemitism with national strategies.

Day by day, a reflection on a European asylum system regulation becomes more urgent. The Dutch minister for Migration Klaas Djkhof  recognizes the reform of the Dublin regulation , considering its failure,  as one of Dutch presidency priorities “At the moment agreements are not working, they are not realistic, and we knew these provisions could fail , because they say that only the first country of reception owns the responsibility, so the system could only fail”.

Words that Michele Nicoletti (Partito Democratico), president of the Italian Assembly of Council of Europe (Apce) appreciated “Now, after this act of accuse, it is time to pass from words to actions , because there is no more time to loose. Klaas Dijkhof has done a great job saying that this issue will be at the priorities of this Dutch presidency semester”. “The Dublin regulation is a symbol of iniquity nowadays- Nicoletti said – and lack of solidarity, with human costs for asylum seekers  that cannot be accepted and too high for the economies of member states. It needs to be outdated with a homogeneous system, through common standards and procedures and that will be based on solidarity within member states”. Already last 30 September the Assembly of the Council of Europe approved Nicoletti’s report called “After Dublin is urgent to create a real European asylum mechanism” , where it was highlighted the need of a binding and permanent system to redistribute asylum seekers between member states, the introduction of the status of “European refugees”, the respect of EU directives on reception conditions and asylum procedures in the European Union.


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