C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Titus
Corlăţean, rapporteur for opinion
1 Hate crimes are still striking
fear into Jewish communities and the post-war consensus to root
out antisemitism in Europe may be dangerously weakening. According
to Dieter Graumann, President of Germany’s Central Council of Jews,
“these are the worst times since the Nazi era”, and the outbreak
of hatred against Jews is not just a German phenomenon. This is
also well documented in the thorough report by Mr Boriss Cilevičs,
which gathered a wide variety of examples of manifestations of antisemitism
from a number of Council of Europe member States.
2 The frequent attacks also raise alarm about Europe’s changing
perception of hatred and intolerance against Jews, including among
politicians and opinion leaders. I believe that we, as elected representatives, have
the duty to question whether a subtle societal shifting is occurring
that has made anti-Jewish remarks or behaviour more acceptable today
than it was after the Second World War.
As rightly underlined by Ms Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, in
her well documented report on Counteraction to manifestations of
neo-Nazism and right-wing extremism, which led to the adoption of Resolution 2011 (2014)
, “there must be unequivocal solidarity with the victims
of anti-Semitism, which must not be accompanied by any kind of expression
of understanding for the perpetrators. I would add that this is
all the more relevant in the current times of escalation of tension
in the Middle East”. She also added that “there must be an awareness
and recognition of anti-Semitism as a social and political problem
for Europe, at all levels and in all of its forms”.Note
4 In my own country, Romania, I take an active interest and
involvement in the fight against antisemitism, racism, and all other
forms of intolerance. Romania has taken resolute actions in recent
years in combating antisemitism and Holocaust denial, and the application
of existing legislation in the field of antisemitic crimes is a
joint effort by law enforcement agencies, subordinated to the Interior
and Justice Ministries, and by the National Council for Combating
Discrimination, which is under the control of the Romanian Parliament.
5 On 13 and 15 March 2016, together with the rapporteur of the
Committee on Equality and Non-discrimination, Mr Cilevičs, I attended
the Third Inter-Parliamentary Conference for combating antisemitism, organised
by the German Government and Parliament, in co-operation with the
Inter-Parliamentary coalition for combating antisemitism (ICCA)
in Berlin. Since the main report had been adopted by the Committee
on Equality and Non-Discrimination on 11 March 2016, that is prior
to the conference, I would like to include some of the messages
from the Berlin conference in my opinion to complement the main
report and the draft resolution.
6 On 16 March 2016, I also attended the 69th plenary meeting
of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI),
whose high quality debates also informed this opinion.
7 I also suggested inviting a representative of the International
League against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA) to the committee
meeting during the April 2016 part-session in Strasbourg, to provide
the committee with an update on the situation in Europe. On that
occasion, the committee will also take stock of the youth campaign
“No Hate Speech Movement”, which has been prolonged until the end
of 2017 as part of the Council of Europe Action Plan against violent
extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism.
2 Third inter-parliamentary
conference on combating antisemitism (13-16 March 2016)
8 More than 100 parliamentarians
from 40 countries convened in Berlin to discuss such issues as Internet hate,
community relations and antisemitism in sport, as well as legal,
parliamentary and governmental responses to antisemitism.
9 The conference built on the success of two previous conferences
in 2009 in London and in 2010 in Ottawa. Following the 2010 conference,
an international task force on Internet hate, incorporating members
of the major Internet companies, was established and has since published
a report and produced a statement of aspirational principles that
the participating industry stakeholders have supported and which
serve as a framework through which those companies can seek to address
10 Speakers included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign
Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President of the German Parliament
Dr Norbert Lammert, Director-General of UNESCO Irina Bokova, European
Commissioner Frans Timmermans, British Justice Secretary Michael
Gove, Australian Minister for Justice Michael Keenan, and Harlem
Désir, French Minister of State for European Affairs.
11 Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular, stressed that the
“Never again!” that we hear so often must be followed by action.
She pointed out that hatred of Jews and hatred of the State of Israel
all too often come together to form an unholy alliance. Chancellor
Merkel also looked in particular at online hate speech and antisemitism
in sport and among migrants.
In this respect, I would like to clarify the point that, while
I could agree that the “hatred” of the State of Israel can be seen
as a synonym of antisemitism,Note
in my opinion,
the mere criticism of Israel and its policies cannot.
13 The President of the German Bundestag, Mr Norbert Lammert,
addressed in particular the integration of refugees into German
society, stressing that anyone who comes to Germany also immigrates
into the “Basic Law”, and that antisemites cannot be integrated.
In my opinion, this attitude should inform any migration and integration
policy, be it at the European Union or at the national level. We
must make it clear that any prejudice, intolerance, racism, antisemitic
or antimuslim sentiment, are impediments to the integration of migrants
in Europe. The migration dimension of the debate on antisemitism
should not be overlooked and I propose Amendment D to the draft
resolution to reflect this concern.
14 UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova, pointed to UNESCO’s
leading work in promoting global citizenship education, as a tool
to prevent violent extremism, its efforts to bolster media and information
literacy, to help young women and men counter radicalisation through
the Internet. She also underlined UNESCO’s work to advance Holocaust
I very much agree with the statement made by the European
Commissioner, Mr Frans Timmermans, who said that “we see age-old
naked antisemitism at the far right, we see antisemitism that often
hides behind anti-Zionism on the far left of the political spectrum
and sometimes, sadly, even among anti-racism movements, and we see
the deadly antisemitism of religious extremism, in particular from
Islamism extremists. But as we saw in the terrorist attacks in Paris
in November – it starts always with the Jews, but it never stops
there”. He also stressed that criminal law punishing serious manifestations
of racism and xenophobia is still not enforced everywhere in Europe.
Finally, he pointed out that only 13 out of 28 EU member States
have criminalised Holocaust denial.NoteNote
16 Finally, I noted that the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for
combating antisemitism, which hosted the conference, was co-founded
by John Mann MP, Chairperson of the UK all-party parliamentary group
against antisemitism. In my view, that is a best practice that every
parliament should follow to set up a similar all-party parliamentary
group against antisemitism. This would reinforce the fight against
antisemitism across the political spectrum and allow policymakers
to rise above any ideological division.
3 Promoting dialogue
between political and religious leaders
On 21 March 2016, on the occasion
of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the
European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued
guidelines to all 47 member States of the Council of Europe on how
to prevent hate speech, support those targeted by it, and deal with
ECRI’s Chairperson, Mr Christian
Ahlund, also stressed the importance of counter-speech in fighting
the misconceptions and misinformation that form the basis of hate
speech. Politicians, religious and community leaders must not only
avoid using hate speech but also proactively counter it in their
18 This is especially true when it comes to deeply rooted prejudice
and discrimination. I think that the role of political and religious
leaders in promoting counter-speech based on tolerance, respect
and mutual understanding should be further promoted and highlighted
in the draft resolution, including through inter-faith dialogue.
19 Governments and parliaments should engage in consultations
with religious leaders of different faiths, spiritual and humanistic
beliefs with a view to understanding the root causes of antisemitism
and promoting counter-speech based on tolerance, respect and mutual
4 The importance
of Holocaust remembrance
20 The Holocaust is regarded as
a paradigm for every kind of human rights violation and crime against humanity;
all the victims (Jews, Roma, Resistance members, politicians, homosexuals,
Jehovah’s Witnesses, disabled persons) of the Nazi regime are taken
21 The Council of Europe was the moving spirit behind the introduction
of a Day of Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes against
Humanity. Education ministers from member States took the decision
in October 2002. While Germany, France and other countries have
chosen 27 January, the day when Auschwitz was liberated, Holocaust
Day varies in other countries according to the respective historical experience.
Romania, for instance, has chosen 9 October, the day that saw the
start of a terrible campaign of persecution directed at Romania’s
Jews in 1941.
22 The Council of Europe also helps teachers with their Holocaust
Remembrance Day preparations by making available teaching material
for raising pupil awareness of those dark times and exploring the
topics of genocide and crimes against humanity so as to promote
prevention, understanding, tolerance, and friendship between nations,
races and religions.
23 2016 is also the year of the Romania Chairmanship of the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental body
whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind
the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research, both
nationally and internationally. In February 2010, Ambassador Tom
Vraalsen, the IHRA Chair under the Chairmanship of Norway, and Thorbjørn Jagland,
Secretary General of the Council of Europe, signed a Memorandum
of Understanding between the IHRA and the Council of Europe. The
Romanian Chairmanship will host two IHRA plenary meetings this year, in
Bucharest in May and in Iași in November.
24 Council of Europe member States should be encouraged to support
and promote Holocaust Remembrance Day and parliamentarians can play
a crucial role in leading the way.
5 Detailed explanations
of the amendments
As stressed in Resolution
1510 (2006) on freedom of expression and respect for religious beliefs:
“The Assembly is of the opinion that freedom of expression as protected
under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights should
not be further restricted to meet increasing sensitivities of certain
religious groups. At the same time, the Assembly emphasises that
hate speech against any religious group is not compatible with the
fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the European Convention
on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human
Following the publication of the ECRI monitoring report on
Romania on 3 June 2014, the Romanian authorities have implemented
ECRI’s recommendation to establish a comprehensive system for the
collection of data so as to be able to assess the scale of direct
and indirect discrimination of minority groups in Romania in various fields
of life. The recommendation is applicable to all Council of Europe
member States and the amendment is aimed at clarifying the recommendation
contained in paragraph 7.2.3.
The amendment points to the importance of engaging dialogue
among political and religious leaders of different faiths, spiritual
and humanistic beliefs. Governments and parliaments should engage
in consultations with religious communities’ representatives to
achieve a better understanding of those faiths and to engage in
open discussions with a view to combating and preventing antisemitism
and all forms of intolerance.
Awareness-raising campaigns promoting respect and a harmonious
living together should also be considered in the framework of integration
programmes for migrants and refugees, who also “immigrate” into
European standards and values. It should be clear that any prejudice,
intolerance, racism, anti-Muslim, xenophobic or antisemitic sentiments,
are impediments to the integration of migrants in Europe.
See Chapter 4 of the explanatory memorandum on “The importance
of Holocaust remembrance”.
Setting up an all-party parliamentary group against antisemitism
in all parliaments of Council of Europe member States is a best
practice which would reinforce the fight across the political spectrum
and allow policymakers to rise above any ideological division.