Tuesday, 25 Jun 2019 - 22 of Sivan, 5779

European Elections this week: a pivotal moment for Europe ? Also for European Jewry ?

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Ahead of the elections, several groups have presented their ‘’red lines’’ for parties and candidates, to be considered by voters across Europe who care for the safety and security of the Jewish people at a time of growing anti-Semitism on the continent.

Last December, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the European Commission published their second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU.

With 28% of respondents indicating that they have been harassed at least once in the past year, with 79% of Jews who experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the past five years not reporting this to the police or another organisation, with 34% avoiding visiting Jewish events or sites because they do not feel safe, with 38% considering emigrating because they did not feel safe as Jews in Europe, and with 70% considering that efforts by Member States to combat Antisemitism are not effective, this is not sobering.

BRUSSELS—European elections take place this week. Citizens from 28 EU member states will cast their votes on 23-26 May to choose the 751 European Parliament members who will represent more than 512 million people for the next five years. Many commentators say these elections could be one of the EU’s most pivotal moments.

The last European elections in 2014 were the largest transnational elections ever held at the same time. This time the stakes are even higher. By voting, European citizens will decide what kind of Europe they want in the years to come.

‘’We have to change Europe and make it more effective by answering citizens’ concerns and building upon what we have already achieved,’’ said the outgoing President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani.

It will be the ninth parliamentary election since the first direct elections in 1979.

The election will determine the future direction of the European Union itself as it confronts the threat of nationalists and populists across the continent, and as the drawn-out Brexit process continues to dominate the political agenda.

While historically turnout has been relatively low, this year analysts say voters are much more engaged with the poll.As a result, Europe’s Parliament is expected to undergo a major shake-up and populists are expected to make big gains.

The European Parliament’s largest groups, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) — who have long enjoyed a joint majority in Parliament — are expected to lose a number of seats with euroskeptic and populist movements tipped to make big gains this year.

The results of the elections will also determine who will be the next presidents of the  European institutions, the European Parliament, European Commission , European Council and the next EU foreign affairs chief.

Parliament’s largest groups, the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) — who have long enjoyed a joint majority in Parliament — are expected to lose a number of seats with euroskeptic and populist movements tipped to make big gains this year.

In April Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini — who has spearheaded a series of anti-immigrant policies — launched what amounted to a “Make Europe Great Again” campaign in an attempt to unite far-right political parties across the continent ahead of the elections. The newly formed alliance hopes to form a weighty bloc in Parliament — the third largest, Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally has predicted.

Brexit is also another major factor this year. The UK was scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, but missed that deadline and another in April, meaning it is now obliged to take part in elections. If Brexit does occur soon though, British MEPs won’t take up their seats.

The European Parliament will publish national estimates from 18:00 on Sunday 26 May and a first aggregated projection of the composition of the new Parliament at around 20:15, based on available national data and exit polls on www.election-results.eu.

Jewish ‘Red Lines’

Ahead of the elections, several groups have presented their ‘’red lines’’ for parties and candidates, to be considered by voters across Europe who care for the safety and security of the Jewish people at a time of growing anti-Semitism on the continent.

‘’There are good candidates across the party lines but for anyone who cares deeply about the safety and security of European Jewry and for the State of Israel there are several guiding principles that will help identify a suitable candidate, either by looking at the voting record of their respective political party group or by asking the candidates directly on their stances on the following questions,’’ said European Coalition for Israel (ECI) Founding Director Tomas Sandell.

– What is their opinion on the International Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism that includes anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism?

– What is their view on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which was just declared anti-Semitic by the German Bundestag?

– What is their opinion on ritual kosher slaughter and the right for Jews to circumcise their male babies at the eighth day of the infant’s life?

– Should EU-funding to the Palestinian Authority be conditioned on respecting fundamental rights and should there be a zero tolerance for incitement to hatred and violence?

“Good candidates can have different convictions and opinions on many issues, but these are critical questions which give a good indication on how they stand in relation to Israel and the Jewish people”, Sandell explained.

Last November, Menachem Margolin, Director of the European Jewish Association (EJA) presented its ‘’red lines’’ to political parties  on issues ‘’that are vital to us and our life on this Continent’’ :

-Political parties and their leadership must sign up to the full IHRA definition of Anti-semitism.

-Every European Country must appoint a special government envoy on anti-Semitism where one already doesn’t exist

-All political parties pledge to exclude from government parties or politicians that espouse anti-Semitism as defined by the IHRA definition.

-All political parties to pass a binding resolution rejecting BDS activities as fundamentally anti-Semitic.

-All political parties to support in writing and in party documents their support for freedom of religion and freedom of practice at Member State level and EU level where applicable

‘’These red lines are the bare minimum that is needed to make a real difference,’’ Margolin said.

Earlier this week, the European Jewish Congress (EJC) calls on all Europeans to reject extremism and populism and stand up for fundamental values and freedoms.

“We have seen a constant and worrying rise of extremist parties, from both the far-Right and the far-Left, and populist parties in elections across the continent and we are concerned that this trend will continue in the European elections,” said Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC.  “These parties are a danger to Europe, a danger to democracy and pose a threat to minorities in Europe, including to the Jewish community,” he said.

”We remain deeply concerned that antisemitism and the attacks on religious rights are used and abused for political gain and we call on all political parties to oppose all attempts to restrict the right to a Jewish life in Europe,’’ Kantor added.

Last December, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the European Commission published their second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU.

With 28% of respondents indicating that they have been harassed at least once in the past year, with 79% of Jews who experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the past five years not reporting this to the police or another organisation, with 34% avoiding visiting Jewish events or sites because they do not feel safe, with 38% considering emigrating because they did not feel safe as Jews in Europe, and with 70% considering that efforts by Member States to combat Antisemitism are not effective, this is not sobering.

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