The European Jewish Association participated Thursday in a major conference at the European Commission in Brussels reuniting Jewish leaders, civil society leaders, jurists, politicians and special envoys.
“We expect that the European Commission will make every effort to secure the support of all European governments for legislation that would enshrine the issue of religious freedom in law to ensure the continued existence of Jewish life in Europe,’’ said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Assopciation (EJA).
The EJA participated Thursday in a major conference organized by the European Commission in Brussels reuniting Jewish and Muslim leaders, civil society leaders, jurists, politicians and special envoys and coordinators on combating antisemitism
This conference was organised in partnership with the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe.
“The Conference held today by the European Commission is too little but not too late,’’ Margolin said in a statement.
“We are proud to be the Jewish voice of Europe and to fight on issues that some regard as unpopular,’’ he added.
“We thank the Commission for agreeing to our repeated pleas and finally addressing the issue of Freedom of Religion in Europe, in this case on Religious Slaughter. It is a much-needed step in the right direction.However, today’s conference must not give anyone the feeling that the issue can be marked with a tick or glossed over with well-meaning words,’’ Rabbi Margolin said.
“Make no mistake, the issue of the Freedom of Religion, whilst not grabbing the headlines that antisemitism does, is every bit as important. Because without this freedom to practice, and to live a Jewish life, there can be no Jewish future in Europe,’’ he said.
“We stand today at a crossroads, whilst conferences like this are too little, they are a reminder that it is not too late to go in the right direction,’’ he concluded.
The European Commission said it is ”committed to ensuring freedom of religion or belief in the EU, including the rights for minority groups to express their religion through specific cultural, traditional and religious practices in line with the Charter on Fundamental Rights.”
Muslim and Jewish communities have been expressing their rising concern about shrinking space for their freedom to practice their respective religions in Europe, in light of bans or discussions about possible bans of religious slaughter.
In its judgement of 17 December 2020, the Court of Justice of the EU acknowledged that Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 allows to strike a fair balance between on the one hand, the protection of the welfare of animals when they are killed and, on the other, respect for the freedom to manifest religion. EU Member States may adopt different rules based on the domestic context, while ensuring the respect of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
In its EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, adopted on 5 October 2022, the European Commission has committed to facilitating the exchange of best practices between public authorities from EU countries and beyond, with representatives of Jewish and Muslim communities, drawing on the experience of international organisations such as the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe.