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22 June 2022 morning

2022 - Third part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No. 21

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Good morning everybody.

I also would like to thank the Irish Presidency for a very wonderful concert last evening and that will be a very good memory for all of us I think who participated there.

So, good morning, and the sitting is open.

The first item of business at this sitting is the debate on the Report titled “Preventing and combating antisemitism in Europe” (Doc. 15539) presented by Ms Petra BAYR on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

Ms Ute STEYER, Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Stockholm, will also make a statement.

In order to finish by noon, we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 11:50 a.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

I call Ms Petra BAYR, rapporteur, you have 7 minutes.

The floor is yours.

Debate: Preventing and combating antisemitism in Europe

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you very much Mrs President.

I am happy to have this report today in the plenary.

As we all know, antisemitism is not a new phenomenon. With Covid-19 and rallies against measures to curb the virus and the pervasiveness of social media in everyday life, antisemitism became more present and appeared in a new guise. When Covid-19 deniers and anti-vaxxers wearing yellow stars present themselves as “new victims”, equalising themselves with victims of the Shoah and chanting “vaccination makes free”, this clearly constitutes Holocaust distortion: this is antisemitism.

Let me quote Ms Monika Schwarz-Friesel, professor at the Technical University of Berlin:

"The collective emotion of hatred of Jews is highly present and active, not only at the edges of our society but everywhere. More than two-thirds of all antisemitic statements and conspiracy fantasies on social media are based on age-old stereotypes. With the use of ICT this echo of the past can be listened to in unprecedented quantity."

Fritz Stern describes our era as a time of "cultural despair" in the face of conspiracy myths, of reality distortion, rude propaganda, doubts about democratic values, and in the face of a brutal war in which even the last Ukrainian Shoah survivors are being killed.

For years now, the anti-Jewish resentment has been articulated more openly, more self-confidently, and more naturally in the public sphere of communication, very often without triggering the urgently needed responses both by policymakers and civil society.

In its renewed policy recommendation on combating antisemitism, the Council of Europe’s expert body on racism and intolerance (ECRI) states that antisemitism shares the standard racist worldview that rejects the existence of one common humanity, and instead sub-divides human beings into different “racial” categories, which are usually not viewed as equal. Racism distinguishes between “us” and “them”, and there is no way to bridge this division. Not necessary to say that the “other” is inferior to the society of the racists.

Contrary to these racist stereotypes, antisemitism considers Jews at the same time to hold some special – very often global – superior power: they command the global financial system, political networks, and use this power against non-Jews. This assumption is built upon age-old stereotypes; it is made to incite fear, blame Jews in times of crisis to have caused this crisis and misuse them as scapegoats.

Antisemitism is often an intersectional form of racism and being Jewish is often interlinked with the demonisation of people in conjunction with other identity markers, such as wealth and education, or professions like bankers, or ideology like liberalism, socialism or communism. It is irrelevant that the different accusations very often contradict each other: Jews are controlling the global finance and are at the same time they are communists; that doesn't fit together, but for antisemitism that doesn't matter.

In my report I collected a wide range of best practice examples of what politics can do to prevent and combat antisemitism.

Here I especially want to thank Ms Elodie Fisher who helped me collect all of this data, organising all the video conferences we had, and for bringing structure to the mass of information we have gathered.

I hope that many of you can make use of this report. There is a need to combat antisemitism in sports, at schools and universities, in private conversations, in everyday life, and of course in politics as well.

Current antisemitism, however, is alive and does not only feed on antisemitic speech, but also on toleration, turning a blind eye and taking things lightly.

Karl Popper wrote in his work about the open society over 70 years ago:

"In the name of tolerance, we should reserve the right not to tolerate the intolerant."

I think this could be quite a good guideline for us to combat antisemitism politically. We know very well how hostility towards Jews manifests itself, and we can give clear information when a statement is antisemitic.

To combat antisemitism does not mean to not be allowed to criticise the policy of any Israeli government. There is a wide gap between evidence-based criticism and antisemitism. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)'s working definition of antisemitism provides us with a lot of examples how to distinguish it. As an example it suggests: antisemitism is holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel.

Probably the best way to prevent antisemitism is by fostering a flourishing and vibrant Jewish life, to make Jewish culture visible and an integral part of our societies. There is so much of Jewish wisdom, science, culture, enlightenment, habits – even language – that would make our societies much poorer if we were to miss it.

And as a last thought:

Hostility towards Jews always came from the educated centre. Most of Western culture bears witness to this. Therefore, the inflammatory headline "Jew-Hatred has Reached the Centre" is misleading. The centre is still the source of antisemitism – and its intellectual substance feeds the margins, not the other way around, to quote Professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel again.

Dear colleagues,

I hope you will not only agree on this report, I hope you really can and will use it for your political efforts to stop the “dislike of the unlike”, to work towards a society that excludes intolerance and hatred, that makes antisemitic stereotypes history, and focuses on a peaceful co-existence of different cultures, religions and habits.

I hope, no I am convinced: together we can end antisemitism.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Petra BAYR.

We now come to the statement from Ms Ute STEYER.

I welcome Ms Ute STEYER to the Assembly and you have the floor.


Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Stockholm


Thank you very much for inviting me to speak.

It's truly a great honour to be here, although I wish that the reason for me being here would be to celebrate Jewish life, Jewish culture, Jewish identity, and not the rise of antisemitism and the need for special protection of Jewish life and Jewish future in Europe.

The very fact that the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination thought necessary to compile a report on preventing and combating antisemitism in Europe should actually, if we are honest, it should be front-page news on every news agency and it should cause an outcry of indignation in civil society. Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II and the Shoah it shouldn't be necessary to have to compile such a report.

The rules of antisemitism as you know are ancient and go back through centuries and are, as Ms Petra BAYR just outlined, a combination of Christian replacement theology of a demonisation of the other, of racial supremacy theory and in modern times, increasingly, conspiracy theories and prejudice based on ignorance and/or political indoctrination.

Alarming is also to see how old anti-Jewish Christian sentiments are popping up, reappearing now in new shape among many Muslims and Muslim minority. The report demonstrates the potential pitfalls in the inherent limits of democracy and that there is a dire need to safeguard and to protect the rights of minorities and especially the Jewish minority in Europe.

The report outlines the importance of strong legal measures to secure the safety of Jews and of Jewish institutions against the very real threat of potential attacks, but also the need for education about antisemitism and the Holocaust, and the need for legislation to ensure the freedom of religion and of religious practice.

And I want to emphasise the importance of a deeper understanding of what protection of the needs of ethnic and religious minority mean for the practitioners of religious minorities.

The UN declaration of the rights of minorities lists five specific rights, and two of these are:

- "the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, and to use their own language in private and in public freely and without any form of interference or discrimination"

- and the second, "the right to participate effectively at the national and regional level in decisions concerning such minority to which they belong".

I don't know how many of you here would self-identify as religious individuals whose lives and life choices are at least to some extent determined or influenced by your religious tradition. But I assume that many, if not most of you, even if not practising a religion, come from a background that is rooted in Christianity, that has shaped your culture, your world view and your values.

I believe that Europe is standing before a new challenge. Countries that for centuries have been homogenous, in my case I live in Sweden, that did not allow non-Protestants to settle permanently within its borders until the late 18th century. Religious and ethnic minorities including Jews came late and quickly assimilated into Swedish majority culture. Most of them haven't left much of a choice. There was never a real need for a Swedish majority culture to change attitudes or question one's own biases and blind spots.

This changed drastically during the 20th and 21st century, with an ever increasing wave of immigrants and refugees arriving in Sweden and trying to carve out a place for themselves. This is an experience that Sweden very much shares with most European countries who now face the task of integrating groups of people from other religion and other cultural backgrounds. And please note that I say integrate not assimilate.

Homogeneous societies' difficulties to adapt to changing demographics are one aspect. Another aspect is the increasing secularisation of European democracies. This secularisation is caused by a liberal secularism that has lost touch often with its Christian roots where religion is seen as a purely individual pursuit and increasingly removed from the public sphere.

Yet, at the same time, existent expressions of Christianity in the public sphere are perceived as nothing else but culture. Culture that helps to transmit cultural identity from the majority between generations. The absence of a manifold and natural presence of religion and religious practice in the public sphere in many European countries become a challenge for members of religious minorities, who cannot rely on the support of set cultural markers to sustain and support the transmission of identity between generations.

Especially if this also then goes hand-in-hand with legislation that, in their attempt to combat anti-democratic, fundamentalist, isolated groups and phenomena, de facto also hit against the mainstream ethnic and religious minorities it was meant to protect.

Now Jews in Europe face challenges from a variety of directions. Some of those we share with other minorities, others specifically antisemitism is targeted exclusively against Jews.

Ladies and gentlemen, the things most of you take for granted are not obvious for Jews in most parts of Europe. Living as a Jew in Europe today means to be on guard, to look over your shoulder, to avoid wearing Jewish symbols, not to look too Jewish or to speak Hebrew in public. As a rabbi I cannot just invite my congregants for a picnic in the park after services on the community Facebook page.

Security concerns make us constantly abstain from such public and visible gatherings. It also means having to constantly explain, play down or apologise for being other, being different. Our insistence to practice our traditions and maintain a culture that might appear alien, or at best exotic, in the eyes of the majority culture. It is seen sometimes with curiosity, but often also with a good amount of suspicion and prejudice.

Especially in Sweden I noticed a widespread confusion and unfamiliarity about what is seen as religious and what is considered cultural expression. This causes blind spots and those blind spots can easily become prejudice. The religious traditions of one's own are seen as cultural markers, whereas Jewish or other traditions are perceived as confessional. And at least in Sweden, confessional has become a camouflage to label something as undesirable.

I think this is potentially harmful for a pluralist democratic society. The report presented to you mentions the need to counter antisemitism in hate speech through a variety of tools. Among them the need for education and, I emphasise, the need to safeguard and enable manifolds vibrant Jewish life.

This can and should only be achieved in near dialogue with the Jewish communities and with an open ear to what the Jewish communities themselves identify as key aspects.

Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no manifold vibrant Jewish life if Jews cannot practice Judaism freely and safely. It's as simple as that. Yet not infrequently Jewish communities encounter propositions or proposals or policy recommendations that are in fact infringing on religious freedoms or that are achieving the opposite effect, despite a well-meaning agenda.

A Klezmer festival or a performance of Fiddler on the Roof in the centre of town is a wonderful thing, but this is not what's going to ensure a vital Jewish future. On the contrary, it runs the risk of exotifying Jews and doesn't grant a better understanding for Jewish life today. Nobody lives like Fiddler on the Roof.

A protection of the practice of religious traditions is what is needed. Jewish schools are needed, where Jewish children can learn about Judaism, history and traditions. A Jewish school that is Jewish in name only but isn't allowed to teach about Judaism becomes a fig leaf. Also the choice of language when we talk about Jewish tradition and Jewish practices as presented in reports, in media, in public discussion, carries deep meaning.

When for instance referring to shechita, the Jewish method of slaughtering animals, it does make a difference if it is called religious slaughter or if it's called, as often heard and seen, as ritual slaughter. Even well-meaning representatives are sometimes unaware about the loaded historical connotations of labelling something as ritual. It harks back to a blood libel accusation against Jews for ritual murder in the Middle Ages. To mention brit milah, male infant circumcision as prescribed by Jewish law, in the same sentence as female genital mutilation is another common example of how the distinctions become blurred and subtle value judgments are transmitted. Either on purpose or by mistake.

The report mentions the increase of hate speech. Well, the way we debate, the words we use matter. It sets an example for what is acceptable.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much Ms Ute STEYER for your statement, which has been listened to with keen interest by all the members of the Assembly. So, thank you.

And we now come to the list of speakers on behalf of the political groups. I first call in the debate, Mr Thomas PRINGLE, Group of the Unified European Left, from Ireland.

The floor is yours.


Ireland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Before I start, I would just like to commend and recommend Amendment 1 on behalf of our Group, put forward by Ms Laura CASTEL and Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW, I recommend that to the Parliament.

Antisemitism is on the rise across Europe. That is a very worrying statement, but certainly it appears to be true.

Of course, in Ireland, we cannot say that because we have no way of officially recording incidents of antisemitism, or indeed, any racist comments or crimes. I will deal with that later on in my statement.

Antisemitism, like all hate speech, is particularly abhorrent. It is picking on the most vulnerable in our society and making them stand out.

We all need to stand against it, because as the saying goes, "when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out".

Some years ago, I visited the site of Auschwitz, in Poland, and it was one of the most harrowing experiences for me, and also one of the most profound. To see, first-hand, the evils that people can do to those more vulnerable, and how a state can be organised to carry out such a barbaric policy, is a very important learning tool.

I believe that all school children should visit Holocaust memorials such as this, as part of their curriculum. We need to make sure that we can never go back to that. It starts with making sure that hate speech is not tolerated.

It is hard to believe that currently in Ireland we do not have a system for the recording of hate speech, or indeed hate crimes. That is one way to make sure that we don't have any crimes, by not recording instances anyway.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has highlighted the lack of specific crimes, and its alternative to the State Report for Ireland 2022 to review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This states that despite some new initiatives by the Garda Síochána, including new recording options on the Gardao crime reporting system, there is an ongoing lack of reliable research and disaggregated data on causes and experiences of hate crime and hate speech in Ireland. They go on to say that they note with concern that only 25% of crimes were reported to police in 2021, down from 43% in 2020.

Those who reported expressed extremely low levels of satisfaction. I believe that the low level of satisfaction is because we do not have a culture of the Gardao reporting and recording hate crime. That has to change.

There is no reason to believe that the absence of hate crime in Ireland would be any lower than that in the rest of Europe, except possibly, we have a much smaller Jewish population.

Human Rights Watch published a report on hate crime against the Jewish population that reported a 2018 survey that found that 89% of Jews living in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK feel that antisemitism is on the rise over the last decade. This is the extent of the problem that has to be addressed.

One problem I have with the definition of antisemitism from the Stockholm Declaration is the examples of targeting the State of Israel as antisemitic. I fail to see how this can be so. I believe that the State of Israel is not representative of all Jewish people, and likewise, a person can be critical of the State of Israel without being antisemitic. The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is a more appropriate definition, I believe.

I think it is also interesting to note that antisemitism means hatred against all people of Semitic origin, of which Palestinian people are also included.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Thomas PRINGLE.

The next speaker on behalf of the Socialist Group is Mr Stefan SCHENNACH from Austria, 3 minutes.

The floor is yours.


Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Madam Chair.

On behalf of the Socialist and Green Groups, I would like to start by thanking our rapporteur very, very much for this important and stirring report but also Ms Ute Steyer from the Great Synagogue in Stockholm. Thank you very much for your words here in this Assembly. It is very important that also many young people, who, hopefully, will also read this, read her words.

There has been a terrible spectre going around for years in Europe. This is what we call a spread of antisemitism that has forced people, especially here from our host country, France, to leave France.

We see this in the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and we see this in physical attacks against believers in various countries. That is antisemitism has reached a level that we didn't really think would ever be the case again after the terrible time of the Holocaust. It is an attack against human rights.

In this discussion, one must not confuse antisemitism and the necessary and justified criticism of a government of Israel. One has nothing to do with the other. Antisemitism is racism and intolerance in our states, in our societies, and the necessary criticism of a government is something else. We have to do that, because it is also about human rights there. But just this resolution from our rapporteur shows that this is about combating internationally, nationally and about promoting Jewish life and raising awareness of Jewish culture and that we must not forget something here either. We see that in all our debates. What is happening here on the net is unbelievable, which means that we also need this fight against antisemitism on the Internet, the co‑operation, as the rapporteur has also proposed with the No Hate Campaign; and that parliamentarians intervene publicly with civil courage when, for example, jokes are made about the Holocaust or about Jewish life. Here we need civil courage. Here we need to stand up. That's why this is also a resolution that addresses each of us to say: be courageous and get involved.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

And on behalf of Group of the European People's Party and Christian Democrats, I call Mr Reinhold LOPATKA from Austria. 

The floor is yours.

Mr Reinhold LOPATKA

Austria, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Dear President,

Dear colleagues,

The number of antisemitic incidents around the world dramatically increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, as my colleague Ms Petra BAYR, our rapporteur, already mentioned in her presentation.

Conspiracy theories began to rise, blaming Jews for spreading the virus.

It is therefore important, that our Assembly already started a long time ago with initiatives, inviting member states to implement anti-racism strategies and to do more in combating antisemitism.

There can be no place for antisemitism in Europe and therefore my political group fully supports this resolution.

Antisemitism already existed in ancient times, although the term itself was not used until the 19th century.

However, there was always the same: it was and is about striving up prejudice and hatred in word and deed against Jews.

More than 6 million Jews, many of them children, were murdered in the Shoah. But even this unimaginably cruel genocide and the commemoration of this horror still have not brought about a rethinking in many people. And we have to condemn all forms of antisemitism.

But we have to have a holistic strategy to prevent racism, xenophobia, islamophobia and antisemitism.

We have to promote human rights, which means fighting against religious and ethnic discrimination, including antisemitism of course.

1.5 million Jews live in Europe. Jewish life in Europe is still vibrant. Jewish people have enriched Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage. Gustav Mahler, Stefan Zweig or Sigmund Freud are only three of so many Austrian Jews as you find them in nearly all of our countries who contributed such a lot to our music, literature or psychology.

We have to protect our values!

Yes, antisemitism is a problem. Antisemitism is still increasing, from hate speech to hate crimes and attacks on Jewish people. We have to pursue a zero-tolerance approach to incidents of antisemitism.

Let us work together for a future free from antisemitism in all our countries and beyond!

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you Mr Reinhold LOPATKA.

Then I give the floor on behalf of the European Conservatives Group to Lord Simon RUSSELL from the United Kingdom.

The floor is yours, sir.

Lord Simon RUSSELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much.

First of all, I would like to thank Ms Petra BAYR and Ms Ute STEYER in particular for a very interesting discourse.

I have three reasons for speaking to you here this morning.

First, the principle itself, which I think is self-evident. Antisemitism is clearly wrong.

Secondly, personal: on my mother's side, one of my great grandfathers, in the wake of Kristallnacht in 1938, put his name at the head of a petition to raise money to get Kindertransport children out of Germany. In five months they raised thirty five million British pounds and took a lot of children out.

Secondly, my paternal grandfather, the previous Lord Russell, in 1954 wrote a book called The Scourge of the Swastika – that was the first book which described, in graphic detail, exactly what happened under the Third Reich.

The third reason is politics and politicians. In other words: ourselves. We are part of the problem. We weaponise antisemitism in three ways: we use it against political opponents; we appeal to antisemitic beliefs in some of the public, often through conspiracy theories; and we tolerate antisemitism in some of our parties, sometimes as a means to try and extend support, particularly amongst younger people, who find the state of Israel's policies towards Palestinians very difficult.

To illustrate how we use and weaponise antisemitism, I will use six examples of countries, all of which are current or former members of the Council of Europe.

Firstly, Russia. Russia has used antisemitism over many years against Ukraine, both in propaganda and in false flag incidents. Ukraine itself – nationalists in Ukraine – glorify Second World War fighters who were involved in anti-Jewish pogroms. and they try and diminish the importance of the Holocaust.

In my own country, under its previous leadership, our opposition party consciously tolerated antisemitism in its ranks as a means of extending its membership.

In Hungary, the use of coded antisemitism in political campaigns against EU migration policies continues, in particular a strange and vindictive witch hunt against Mr George Soros.

Fifthly, Poland which uses antisemitic rhetoric in its election campaigns.

And lastly Germany, where some parties trivialise the Holocaust while appearing to talk to voters about Holocaust fatigue. How would you feel if half of your population had been wiped out, and people accused you of being fatigued talking or thinking about it?

Antisemitism happens everywhere. It's mostly hidden. It's mostly unspoken. But where it is used by politicians, it is unacceptable.

We are part of the problem.

We need to be part of the solution.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Lord Simon RUSSELL.

And the next speaker is on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mr Claude KERN from France.

The floor is yours.

Mr Claude KERN

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Madam President.

I would like to thank the Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Stockholm for her message, and I would also like to thank our colleague Ms Petra BAYR for this very enlightening report on the prevention and the fight against anti-Semitism in Europe.

If this work is an extension of previous resolutions of our Assembly, we cannot but be marked by the difficult context in which it is set.

I would like to express my deep concern and sadness at the increase in the number of acts perpetrated and hate speech directed against Jewish populations in recent months.

The Covid-19 pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine, have provided fertile ground for this rise in anti-Semitism, facilitated by the power of social networks to propagate conspiracy theories.

The rise of hatred and violence leads, in fact, many families of the Jewish faith to change neighbourhood, city, or even purely and simply to leave Europe or to consider doing so. We cannot leave these facts unanswered. We cannot accept the expression of this hatred and violence on a European continent marked by a tragic history, of which Strasbourg is a symbol. We cannot accept forced aliyahs.

I believe it is essential that the Council of Europe, which is doing remarkable work, continue to mobilise fully to fight against all forms of antisemitism.

Our colleague mentions more particularly the challenges of memory, and I share his analysis. Teaching history seems to me to be central to the fight against forgetting our history and against the trivialisation of antisemitism. The report cites alarming figures: about 70% of European students are reportedly unaware of the Holocaust.

We must, therefore, continue to develop Holocaust education in all Council of Europe member States and to keep the memory of the victims of the Shoah alive, so that the darkest hours of our European history are never repeated. In this respect, I welcome the recommendation on the transmission of the memory of the Shoah and the prevention of crimes against humanity, addressed by the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on 17 March. It is a step in the right direction.

In particular, the report proposes to support the newly created Observatory for History Teaching in Europe and to support teachers in transmitting this knowledge and in preventing and fighting antisemitism. I believe that these lines of thought are indeed timely.

Finally, I would like to mention a more specific point concerning ritual slaughter and other traditional practices. This point is not addressed in the report, and our colleague invites us to discuss it later. This is a sensitive subject, and I think it would be useful to do so, because we need to be aware of the impact that such a ban would have on the inclusion of our fellow citizens of both Jewish and Muslim faiths in our societies.

Finally, allow me, on behalf of the French delegation sponsoring the event, to invite you to join us at 1:00 p.m. in the lobby to celebrate Salvation and Liberation Day.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Claude KERN.

Then we continue with the speaker's list and first is Ms Doris BURES for the Socialist Group from Austria.

The floor is yours.

Ms Doris BURES

Austria, SOC


Yes, thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has already been mentioned: antisemitism has many hideous faces. Some are overtly recognisable, but others are well masked. What is frightening is that in recent years, openly expressed antisemitism is on the rise again. I think it's all the more important that the Assembly address the issue. I also thank the rapporteur, Ms Petra BAYR, for her so thoughtful, courageous, and so valuable work.

I agree. Sound, historical and political education helps combat antisemitism. Yet, antisemitism is not just a matter of lack of education. Even educated people can be, and are, antisemites. Therefore, the political and social aspects of antisemitic attitudes must also be named and illuminated. It is no coincidence that in times of crisis, such as the economic and financial crisis with all its consequences, or now the Covid-19 pandemic, antisemitism is on the rise. Because it is precisely in the slipstream of these major economic and social crises that there is often an increase in authoritarian, political attitudes. In addition, people are increasingly worried about social decline and have massive fears about the future. Incidentally, this is also a consequence of inadequate social security systems, which have all too often been dismantled and reduced in recent years.

Both of these factors, authoritarian attitudes combined with socioeconomic perceptions of threat, are the political and social factors that form the breeding ground for antisemitism.

We must wage the fight against antisemitism seriously and comprehensively. Waging the fight against antisemitism, therefore, also always means fighting resolutely for an open, liberal democracy, for social justice and humanism.



Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Ms Doris BURES.

Then I give the floor to Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ, Group of the European People's Party, from Hungary.

The floor is yours.

Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ

Hungary, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam President.

Antisemitism is not only on the rise across Europe but, unfortunately, a new tendency can be detected over the last few years that takes new shapes and forms of violent antisemitism. This tendency is regrettably more visible in the western part of Europe. What can we do on a country-by-country basis? The Hungarian government declared a zero-tolerance policy against antisemitism, and it is fully committed to guaranteeing the safety of Jewish people.

Budapest has the second-largest Jewish community in continental Europe with the second largest synagogue in the world and we are very proud of that. This dialogue includes the preservation of Jewish culture and identity which the rapporteur is focusing on. The Hungarian government also provides financial support, especially the Jewish diaspora of Hungarian origin living in Israel, whose number totals nearly 300 000.

The rapporteur proposes various desirable measures for member States in fighting against antisemitism, among them is the abolishment of public financial allowances to organisations promoting antisemitism. We should all do our best to preserve Jewish culture and identity.

The Hungarian government has implemented a series of legislative and policy initiatives including law enforcement measures, Holocaust education, and remembrance and support for the revival of Jewish culture. Our constitution enables the prosecution of hate speech under civil law. Holocaust denial is banned in Hungary, and the violence or incitement against the community is sanctioned by the criminal code. Last year the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of Europe put inter-religious dialogue also covering the fight against antisemitism in the centrepiece of its presidency programme.

According to the European Jewish Association, a conference was held last week. The life quality for Jewish communities is the second-best in Hungary. I am very proud of that. In summer 2019, Budapest hosted the European Maccabi Games, Europe's largest Jewish sporting event.

Personally, I believe education can contribute the most to establishing a way of thinking. We feel that it is both our constitutional and moral obligation to provide a safe environment for Jewish people to be able to preserve their religion and traditions, which is our common European heritage.

Thank you very much indeed.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ.

Then I give the floor to Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA, from the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance, and Azerbaijan.

The floor is yours.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Unfortunately, despite the enormous efforts of states and international organisations, there has been a growth of religious violence in Europe recently. All of this happened against the backdrop of rising identity tensions and the popularity of far-right radical populist movements.

In addition, social media is playing an increasingly important role as a place for debate.

All this contributes to the growth of aggression not only against Jews, but also against Muslims, and the raising of Islamophobia, xenophobia, and antisemitism in Europe is observed. These conditions in which we find ourselves incite aggression.

The catastrophe of the modern world is that due to the lack of attention to moral and ethical values, along with economic and demographic problems, the problems of morality are damaged. It's not about the "Clash of Civilisations" based on religious differences. It emerged, and found its supporters at that time. Some separatist groups used religious dogmas to prove themselves right in their activity.

But there is something else that we do not talk about and sometimes do not notice at all. These are manifestations of antisemitism or even Islamophobia in everyday life which are not always reported to the police, but they bring suffering and ruin the lives of people.

Under such conditions, the establishment of dialogue between nations and cultures is important for the protection of various cultures of humanity. The experience of countries rich in the traditions of tolerance could serve as an example. The peaceful coexistence of a number of nations and religious confessions in my country, Azerbaijan, is a unique pattern of tolerance.

Christianity and Judaism existed, and currently exist, in Azerbaijan, along with Islam. We consider people of any religion or nationality should respect other cultures, religions, and moral values, and be patient with all the traditions of other religions. The cultural heritage of the country's Jewish community, which has ancient traditions, has attracted great attention by the Government of Azerbaijan and by society as a whole. It is necessary to mention the Red Settlement in Quba district, the settlement considered as a place densely populated by Jews. The settlement, which was earlier called the Jewish settlement, but once famous even as the Jerusalem of the Caucasus.

The Jewish communities present in our country are surrounded with attention and care by the leadership of the country. We can mention here the construction of new synagogues, reconstruction of the old ones, opening the education centre for Jewish children. In the modern age, Jews in Azerbaijan live in a tolerant environment, free from antisemitism, which is no coincidence because Jews have felt like an equal member of the large family in our country throughout all historical periods. Even in times of rampant antisemitism around the world, the people of Azerbaijan didn't treat them as aliens, on the contrary.

Finalising my speech, I want to say that in the modern globalised world we have to free ourselves from prejudice. We have to free ourselves from the stereotypes imposed for political or other reasons, from hatred and hate speeches. We have to treat everyone as a human being with their own rights, and to create an atmosphere of friendship, solidarity, and mutual understanding.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA.

Now I give the floor to Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Switzerland.

The floor is yours.


Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN

Switzerland, ALDE


Thank you very much, Madam President.

Madam President,

Dear Colleagues,

Antisemitism, as our colleague Ms Petra BAYR mentions in her excellent report, is a violation of human rights and a threat to democracy. If it is not fought firmly, it could lead our society to discrimination and violent actions against the Jewish community.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further accentuated an accusing antisemitism on the various social networks with all kinds of hate speech. It is about time that the various platforms remove all antisemitic content and, if they do not do so, heavy fines should be imposed on them.

Another outrageous comparison was made by some opponents of government measures and the vaccine certificate during the pandemic to limit the spread of the virus. These opponents compared themselves to the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany by unashamedly waving a yellow star. The trivialisation of the Holocaust would be a first step towards a certain amnesia of the past. Any denial of past events towards Jewish communities is to be virulently proscribed, because maintaining a living memory of the Holocaust remains the best way to avoid its recurrence.

Our Parliamentary Assembly, the Alliance Against Hate, of which I am a member along with many of you, must condemn all antisemitic acts and words.

I want to mention one point in this report: the conflicts that have historically been open for years between Israelis and Palestinians, and most recently the one in Gaza in the spring of 2021, have led to criticism, attacks with antisemitic comments - justified or not - against the State of Israel. I believe, as does the rapporteur, Ms Petra BAYR, that one can criticise the policy of the State of Israel without being antisemitic.

In order to combat antisemitism, we also need to know more about the diversity of Jewish life and heritage. UNESCO is committed to this by developing an online training course for teachers on the various ways to combat antisemitism.

In conclusion, Jewish communities have their place in Europe and the 46 member countries of the Council of Europe must work together to fight against all forms of hate speech that in any way discredit the Jewish community.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN.

Now we continue with Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ from the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group and Croatia.


Croatia, SOC


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

One of my first speeches before this august House was about antisemitism many years ago, when I first joined our organisation. Indeed I revisited that speech and, unfortunately, I must say that I could repeat or just read my old speech that I first delivered in 2016.

Unfortunately, we have not really reached the achievements that we should have had in this quite a long time.

It is a bit disappointing that in the 21st century, after the Second World War, after the Shoah and the extreme difficulties that our Jewish friends had to endure, we have to talk about antisemitism, hate speech, and violence against Jews.

What is most worrying, unfortunately, is the re-occurrence, I would say, of prejudice, fear, which produces then violence amongst young people. It is manifested in the violent behaviour towards members of minorities, not only Jewish people, but also other minorities, sexual minorities, all the people who are different.

I would say, if you would permit me to use a medical term, this to be a malady. This is only a symptom, not the root of the problem, especially because of young people, I think that we should not treat the symptoms, but we should treat the problem itself.

In my view, education is the key. Education has to reflect all the needs we have to eliminate the misconceptions that usually produce fear, prejudice and, finally, violence.

Therefore, I do support the resolution.

I thank our rapporteur Ms Petra BAYR for her excellent work.

I hope in the next six years or seven years, we will not have the need to debate the problem of antisemitism in this august House and that we will make progress unlike the past period, unfortunately.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ.

Then we continue with Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS from Greece and Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Our institution here, the Council of Europe, was born out of the ashes of the great tragedy of the Second World War, including the greatest crime in human history: the Holocaust, the culmination of historical antisemitism.

Now, antisemitism still, after all these years, remains a plague. A plague in Europe that we need to fight against, as it has been reinforced by the internet and the politics of rage and unreason. I cannot within this framework resist the temptation and not mention a paradoxical emergence of opinions in our midst that are fanatically pro-Israeli and antisemitic at the same time, especially in countries from former eastern Europe.

I come from Thessaloniki in Greece, a city with a very proud and glorious Jewish past that was destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War. After years of efforts, I am happy to report that finally a Holocaust museum in memory of this proud Jewish past is being built in my city to commemorate and celebrate that culture and that civilization.

But the loss is a loss. I have to admit, and we have to admit that antisemitism is not only against our Jewish friends and neighbours, but it is also against us all as it impoverishes our societies. It makes them worse. It makes them poorer. It makes them less livable and, therefore, is a concern for all of us to fight against.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister KAIRIDIS.

Then we continue with Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN from the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group and from Romania.

The floor is yours.


Romania, SOC


Thank you, Madam President.

Colleagues, I would like from the beginning to congratulate our rapporteur, Ms Petra BAYR, for this really excellent work and for the conclusions that proposed that I totally share.

Unfortunately, antisemitism, denial of Holocaust, discrimination and hate speech these are realities, very concerning realities, and, fortunately, these are topical issues currently.

Looking on different national and international sources of information, and especially on the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) country reports, there is a serious concern related to the trends in European member States in the past years. We should condemn in strong terms antisemitism, and we should remain vigilant.

This is why this report is a timely report. Once again, I express the full support for the adoption of this report.

Maybe the key issue became lately one concrete reference that the rapporteur made to the definition of antisemitism. Correctly the rapporteur is making reference to the definition that was adopted, if I am not wrong in 2016-17, by the intergovernmental organisation which is called the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). It happens that this definition was adopted under the Romanian presidency at that time. It is a non-legally binding definition. It is a working definition that was subject of negotiations for many years among the member States.

It was supported by the UN secretary-general, and it was embraced by ECRI with certain guidelines that are putting real emphasis on the important issues and making correctly the separation on one side what is a legitimate right to support the cause of the Palestinians who are having a state on one side, but rejecting the possibility to misuse this legitimate cause to spread the hate speech and to spread the denial of the existence of the state of Israel.

I'm extremely clear on this subject. I strongly support the definition that is proposed by our rapporteur.

Now, we have our national experience in Romania. What counted very much was in 2002-2003 the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, which was led as a chair by Elie Wiesel. Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust, was originally from the western part of Romania, in Sighetu Marmației. Those recommendations and conclusions were used to adopt the appropriate legislative of arrangement, institutions, education as related to the Holocaust in Romania. Quite recently, we have adopted in the parliament new legislation that is establishing, starting in 2023, our putting into place the study of the Holocaust and Jewish history in high schools.

All in all, I want to express once again the support for the adoption of the report presented by Ms Petra BAYR.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Titus CORLĂŢEAN.

We continue to North Macedonia and Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI from the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI

North Macedonia, EPP/CD


Thank you very much.

I would like to support the report that was presented today. I think these challenges are still faced in front of us. As you might know, there was a big community mainly in Skopje but as well in Macedonia, that unfortunately, during the the Second World War, mainly most of the people that lived in Skopje, actually over 90 per cent were deported to Treblinka at that time to the death camps. Now there is a small community, but we built a museum of the Holocaust, one of the few that are around Europe in the very centre of the city where we would like to commemorate the victims.

One other thing I would like to raise connected with this, but as well, with the present times. You all know that Macedonia has a huge problem with Bulgaria over starting accession talks with the European Union. One of the key issues that we are facing is connected with the history and as well with the denial of the Bulgarian state that during the Second World War they were the ones who occupied nowadays Macedonia. They were the ones who, unfortunately, organised the expulsion of the Jewish community. They were the ones who sent them to Treblinka. What we are asking for from them is to commemorate this and to acknowledge that it happened. Unfortunately, what we see is complete denial and, by using the force of membership into the European Union, pushing us to reverse the history in a way to open accession talks. Believe it or not, what we are asking for is to change the history, to change the identity of the land of the nation, even to speak about the language, only to start accession talks with the European Union, using their membership into the European Union to rewrite history in a more, I would say polite way, from them, but in a way that is completely false, that is not true and that is against the history and against what happened during the Second World War.

I would like to ask here from Strasbourg, that this practice be changed. This week there is a European Council happening in Brussels where there will be a meeting as well with the leaders of the Western Balkans. I ask Bulgaria to change their behaviour to allow the opening accession talks and to face the reality, to face their historic problems but as well to face history as it is and to face that there is a nation that exists on their border, which is called the Macedonian nation and a state that is Macedonian. Only by accepting the common values can we go further. A step that the Bulgarian prime minister can do is to come to the Museum of the Holocaust in Skopje and ask for one big story from the victims.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Mister Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI.

We continue to Ms Konul NURULLAYEVA, from Azerbaijan and the European Conservatives Group.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Initially I would like to thank Ms Petra BAYR for conducting such a detailed report.

The global crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major increase in reports of racist and xenophobic incidents against minority groups. Although much legislation was introduced to combat any discrimination in Europe, these problems still, unfortunately, exist and there is a need for new measurements.

Looking at the issue from the perspective of my home country, I would like to mention that Azerbaijan acts as a model for the peaceful coexistence of members of different nations and religions.

It's known that Azerbaijan has suffered from the occupation of 20% of its lands by Armenia for about 30 years. Only after the 44-day war in 2020 was Azerbaijan able to regain its territorial integrity and create a favourable opportunity for lasting peace in the region.

Azerbaijan as always protects the right and security of its entire population in the face of new realities. Within this framework, the right and security of the Armenian community living in Karabakh will be taken into consideration as well.

Azerbaijan is a multi-ethnic country. The Armenian population is not the largest national minority in our country.

At the 9th Global Forum in Baku it was once again officially stated that representatives of all nations, including Armenians who have lived in Azerbaijan for years, have equal rights according to our constitution.

It shows that the Azerbaijani government is committed to its strategy of developing and straightening the traditions of multiculturalism which is the most important asset for peace, diversity, and harmony in Azerbaijani society.

Dear Colleagues,

First the appropriate representation of groups facing racial discrimination in educational institutions, political parties, parliaments and other civil services must be achieved.

Additionally, such minority groups should be enabled to engage in economic activities and raise their employment levels by the execution of different measures.

Furthermore, I believe that European countries should pay special attention to the following series of measures included in the first ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism, which was presented by the European Commission last year.

To conclude, I want to mention that combating antisemitism is the responsibility of all individuals.

Therefore, we have to stop discrimination to build a better nation.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Konul NURULLAYEVA.

We continue to Azerbaijan, and Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

The floor is yours.


Azerbaijan, ALDE


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

I am proud that in my country Azerbaijan, mosques, churches and synagogues are side by side, and there is no need to keep armed guards near any of them. It is the case now; it has been the case for centuries.

The famous 12th century Jewish traveller, Benjamin of Tudela, said that there were 1 000 synagogues in Azerbaijan at that time. However, this figure is clear evidence of how close the Jews had been integrated into Azerbaijani society in the Middle Ages.

I am glad that there is no antisemitism in my country. There never was. In general, no tendency that we will be forced to add the suffix “anti” have had the opportunity to live with us. We have always benefited from this. A tolerant environment has given our country cultural diversity and richness, and has become one of the main forces that ensure a stable and comfortable coexistence. National and religious hatred is an unwanted disease that corrupts any society from within and harms it much more than the degree of its hatred. There is no need for lengthy research to arrive at such a conclusion, whether it be antisemitism or other such evil tendencies. All these do not derive from the intentions of ordinary people, but from insidious politics.

The Holocaust is a tragedy that will never be forgotten not only by Jews, but by the whole world. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan probably comprehends the seriousness of this tragedy better than others, because in our history there is such a tragedy as the Khojaly genocide. It is very symbolic that these two tragedies, one of the most heinous crimes against humanity, sound so similar: "Khojaly" –– "Holocaust". Although people have different joys, their great sorrows are always similar and close. The main condition for the non-repetition of tragedies, as well as for halting the advance of the tendencies that cause them, as well as stopping the spread of antisemitism, is memory and remembering.

Attempts are being made to promote anti-Semitism by covert methods that are not always obvious. In the past, I delivered a report to the Assembly on circumcision, a topic that seemed unexpected for such a significant political platform. It is no secret that antisemitism, Islamophobia and the intention to strike European society via such a seemingly minor issue were the secret bias of those who wanted to include child circumcision in the legal practice of European countries as a criminal act.

We succeeded in preventing it. However, no matter how many visible and invisible initiatives there are, steps are being taken. Therefore, we must never lose our vigilance, the fight against antisemitism and all such tendencies, the timely prevention of movements that will lead to such cases, must always be in the first place in our memory, on our agenda.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Rafael HUSEYNOV.

The next speaker is from the United Kingdom. Mister Tommy SHEPPARD, the floor is yours.


United Kingdom, NR


Thank you, Madam Chair.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in support of this report and to add my voice to calls for greater action to be taken to combat antisemitism across our continent.

It is true of course that we must never forget the Holocaust, but we must also be clear that this is not just a historic problem. This is happening right here, right now, in the communities across our nation states.

It is a particularly pernicious philosophy because not only does it manifest in verbal and physical attacks on Jewish people, but it is underscored by a false conspiracy theory and tropes and stereotypes which create the conditions where those attacks can take place.

We need to be very clear that this is incompatible with our view of a rights-based society. Everyone has the right to be who they are. Everyone has the right to believe what they believe.

But I also want to talk about how this debate relates to our discussions about the Middle East.

I have, for many decades, been involved in advocating for Palestinian political and human rights in that region. That necessarily will involve criticism of Israel. But we need to be very, very clear: there is no contradiction between standing up for human rights for Palestinians and fighting antisemitism. We must do both. Indeed, they are part of the same campaign.

That means when I look at what is happening in Israel - when we look, for example, at the national law of 2018, which does explicitly discriminate against non-Jewish citizens of Israel, or when we look at what is happening in the Occupied Territories, where Israeli human rights organisations - and indeed Amnesty International - have said that there is evidence of the crime of apartheid being committed, we need to be very clear that our argument is with the Israeli government and the Israeli state agencies.

It is not an argument against the general population of Israel. It is most certainly not an argument against Jewish people per se.

That's why I think we need to be very precise and clear in our language.

I support the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) Declaration, but I am concerned as someone engaged in this debate that people have tried to misuse some of its guidelines in order to stifle criticism about what the Israeli government is doing with regard to the Palestinians.

That's why I believe that the Jerusalem Declaration, which was signed in 2020 by more than 300 leading Jewish academics and civil leaders, provides that greater precision and clarity to assist us in this debate.

I would commend it to this Assembly.

Finally, Madam Speaker, I would like to just take this opportunity to make colleagues aware of an organisation called the European Parliamentarians for Israeli-Palestinian Equality, which is open to parliamentarians of all European countries and so far has participation from 14.

I would encourage people to join that and engage in this debate.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Tommy SHEPPARD.

Then we continue to Croatia, and Mr Davor Ivo STIER, from the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Davor Ivo STIER

Croatia, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Let me begin by thanking Ms Petra BAYR for her work and for this report.

I will continue where my colleague Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ stopped, or at least, he opened the question for education, which I think is a critical issue, and of course, is one of the main topics of the report, and rightly so.

As we in Croatia are preparing for taking the rotating presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, I think this is in a way a privilege but for us is mainly also a responsibility to do our homework, and an essential part of that is, of course, in the area of education. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with Yad Vashem to train our educators to have and to elaborate even a more precise Remembrance Day at our schools, and of course also, to build a Holocaust Museum for the education of future generations in Croatia. 

My second point would be about this paradox that was mentioned both by our colleagues Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS and Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN, and I agree with both of them. In Europe, we can see groups, political forces, that are very vocal on the defence of the state of Israel but are less vocal, or sometimes, are very close to the denial of the Holocaust. Also the other way around, those who are very vocal on defending, of course, and insisting on the importance of the remembrance of the Holocaust, but then, when it comes to the security of the state of Israel and the rightful existence of the state of Israel are less vocal sometimes even coming to the point of putting that into question. Although, as Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN has said, of course, that is not in detriment to the right of the Palestinian people to their own state. There is in a way this kind of paradox sometimes, and I think that this is an opportunity to say that the message that we should send here is a message of the importance of the remembrance of the Holocaust, the importance of education of new generations, and a sign and a clear message of support to the state of Israel for existence and security in peace together with the Palestinians, who have the right to their own state.

In any case, the approach taken by Ms Petra BAYR in this report, I think, is the right one, and I will be more than glad to support it.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Davor Ivo STIER.

Then we continue to Mexico, and Ms Rosangela Amairany PEÑA ESCALANTE.

The floor is yours.

Ms Rosangela Amairany PEÑA ESCALANTE



With your permission, Madam President.

I wish to congratulate Ms Petra BAYR for preparing this very important document, which brings to this plenary the issue of prevention and combatting of antisemitism in Europe, a scourge which we continue to witness not withstanding the harsh lessons of modern history.

Antisemitism should be punished in its different approaches and practices since it is an attack on human rights.

Not only is the increase of it in Europe troubling, but also the fact that there is an upsurge in other parts of the world, including my country.

It's crucial to see the effort in this document for better strategies and measures to eradicate antisemitism.

Combating antisemitism is a daily battle. 

It is absolutely essential that we reject any form of religious intolerance, or incitement to hatred, or attack, or harassment of individuals based on ethnic, racial or religious origin, wherever they take place. 

It's important to continue working for education for peace, and safeguarding human rights, approached in particular through the change we want, which is girls, boys, teenagers growing up free of it, so that in the future we will have a society that respects diversity and equal treatment. 

In Mexico City, for example, when the political constitution was drafted in the general framework of human rights, it included prohibition of any form of discrimination, including antisemitism, which was explicitly spelled out, as well as other grounds which were equivalent such as Islamophobia, xenophobia, misogyny and other forms of related intolerance.

In the Chamber of Deputies in Mexico, we're working to ensure that these considerations are also enshrined in the federal constitution of the Republic, because I think it's not enough just to have a law; we also need to have constitutional support in order to ensure that any discriminatory act, especially antisemitic ones, are penalised on a sound legal basis.

In the Council of Europe we've learned a great deal, developing strategies within our own legal framework, and this issue, especially into cultural policy, are examples of this.

We will soon be putting this to the vote. I am sure it will be adopted unanimously so that our parliamentarians take may appropriate decisions to strengthen the legal framework which will reverse the effects entailed through antisemitism.

Thank you very much. 


Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Ms Rosangela Amairany PEÑA ESCALANTE.

Then we continue to Azerbaijan, Mr Samad SEYIDOV, from the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

The floor is yours.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you very much.

First of all, I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur for this excellent report.

Dear Friends,

It's no secret that the attitudes towards the Holocaust and the fight against antisemitism are a clear indication of civilised and democratic societies.

Dear Colleagues,

In the centre of Strasbourg there is a beautiful synagogue. During twenty years of my membership at the Council of Europe I pass by this beautiful building when I come to this Assembly. But unfortunately, I have never seen the door of the synagogue open. Not because the synagogue doesn't function, no, but because of security reasons. And vice versa, I have seen heavily-armed police securing the area. There is a another beautiful synagogue also in the centre of the city in my town, in Baku. During my life I have never seen the door of that synagogue closed. Vice versa, at the entrance, a Jewish guy together with a Muslim guy are sitting together and playing backgammon and discussing city news and the situation in the world.

Why is this happening? How can it be possible?

I think here in the Assembly, we should think that something is wrong with our major value, with tolerance. We lost a big part of this value. We lost respect of this very essential value. Now within tolerance we only have patience. We only have obligations. Without respect, without love, it would be impossible to create harmony in society. What should we do for that? I think we have the recipe.

In order to bring back our major values, in order to fight antisemitism, in order to understand the pain of the people who are suffering, we have to be a little bit Jewish, we have to be a little bit Muslim, and we have to be a little bit Christian in order to combine in our soul all of these inspirations and to create harmony in the world.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Mister SEYIDOV.

We continue to Mr Didier MARIE from France and the Socialist group.

Mr Didier MARIE

France, SOC


Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Colleagues,

I would also like to thank our colleague Ms Petra BAYR, who has rightly highlighted the danger represented today by the accelerated spread of antisemitic discourse and the worrying increase in antisemitic acts.

As in many other member States, we have a legal arsenal in France that penalises the public expression of antisemitic statements. I am referring to the offence of defamation and insult with an antisemitic connotation, to incitement to racial hatred, of which antisemitism is a part, as well as to the apology of war crimes or crimes against humanity and their denial. Aggravating circumstances are also provided for when crimes or offenses are committed "because of the victim's actual or supposed membership or non-membership of a particular ethnic group, nation, race or religion".

France, like other countries, has also set up administrative structures dedicated to the fight against racism and antisemitism: this is the role of the interministerial delegation for the fight against racism, antisemitism and anti-LGBT hatred.

One would have thought that with this legal arsenal, we would have succeeded in preventing and fighting effectively against antisemitism. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and I strongly and sadly regret the rise in anti-Semitic acts, in France as well as in Europe in general.

Ms Petra BAYR rightly points out the importance of culture as a means to fight against this scourge. I agree with her. Schools have a primary and essential role to play in the transmission of our history and our memory. But beyond that, a better knowledge and understanding of religions must be sought if we want to avoid conspiracy theories and hateful stereotypes spreading in our societies.

In this respect, social networks represent a particular threat, as they allow for a particularly rapid and wide spread of hate speech. The algorithms used favour the promotion of extremes and polarise the public debate.

It is essential to fight against online hate, against disinformation and against the phenomenon of "fake news", in which the most virulent antisemitic circles are involved. Allowing hate speech to spread on social networks is putting our democracy at risk.

I therefore support our rapporteur's call for the implementation of the additional protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, as well as the emphasis placed on the regulation of digital platforms. The fight against online hate speech, especially of an anti-Semitic nature, must be a priority in each of our states and it is essential to strengthen the responsibility of social media to promptly remove antisemitic content.

In this regard, I welcome the fact that within the European Union, a provisional agreement has been reached on legislation for digital services. It ensures the protection of users' rights by subjecting major Internet companies to a clear set of provisions to combat hate speech.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister MARIE.

We continue to Iceland and Mr Birgir THÓRARINSSON, representing the Group of the European People's Party.


Iceland, EPP/CD


Madam President,

I want to talk about the power of education in combating prejudice.

The most recent annual Antisemitism Worldwide Report, demonstrates a significant increase in various types of antisemitic incidents in most countries with large Jewish populations during the year 2021.

The Report suggests that the number of antisemitic incidents in the world was directly impacted by two major events: the escalation of conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021, and the Covid-19 pandemic, as mentioned.

In May last year, we once again saw an unacceptable reality: when Israel defends itself, Jewish people across the world are attacked.

During the pandemic, conspiracy theories flourished, including that the Covid-19 virus had been engineered and spread by Israel and the Jewish people.

Madam President,

Despite the extensive efforts and resources invested in combating antisemitism in recent years, the phenomenon is on the rise.

This has resulted in many Jewish people leaving Europe because they feel increasingly unsafe. Nine out of ten Jewish people in Europe see antisemitism as a serious problem. We have to take this seriously. We have to act – more conferences won’t help.

The rapidly expanding digital world has enabled these violent messages to circulate quickly around the world.

Dr Robert Rozett, historian at Vadi Vashem in Jerusalem, believes that the struggle against antisemitism requires a “toolbox” approach, tackling it from multiple angles:

- through legal recourse,

- more rigorous policing of the internet, including social media,

- building bridges between religious groups,

- and of course, education.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".

Education and information about the Holocaust must be used as a tool for combating antisemitism. We must ensure that the memory of the Holocaust continues to resonate with us, but also to use comprehensive and carefully developed educational tools to fight contemporary forms of antisemitism.

In Iceland there is a small Jewish community. The first synagogue is on the building plan, which the government and the people of Iceland welcomes.

Madam President,

I would like to encourage all member States to put more effort into education in order to combat antisemitism.

And of course we, as legislators, must all do our part in preventing hate crimes and hate speech.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Birgir THÓRARINSSON.

Then we continue to Ms Nicole DURANTON, from France and representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.


France, ALDE


Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Colleagues,

I would also like to thank our colleague Ms Petra BAYR for her excellent report, which highlights the worrying trends in antisemitism in Europe.

Our societies have been shaken in recent years by various crises: the financial crisis, the migratory crisis and, more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. The aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and its repercussions have obviously been an additional shock.

In societies facing difficulties, the threat of conspiracy and the temptation to find scapegoats exists. Unfortunately, very often, people of the Jewish faith are targeted. We cannot accept this rise in antisemitism. As the Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, quoted in the report, rightly points out, antisemitism is an existential issue for Europe, since modern Europe was built on the repudiation of the Holocaust. It is a fundamental feature of our approach to human rights. The European Convention on Human Rights, in its Articles 9 and 14, guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and prohibits any discrimination based on religion.

We must do everything possible to ensure that our values are respected, and this requires a total mobilisation of our societies, of our states, against racism and antisemitism.

The Council of Europe is carrying out numerous actions to prevent and fight against antisemitism, notably through the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance and that of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes and all forms of religious intolerance. We must encourage them to pursue their actions with determination.

Our Assembly has already spoken out on several occasions, notably in 2007 and 2016, to resolutely combat antisemitism in Europe. Today, in the face of new challenges, particularly those linked to social networks that propagate hatred online and to a rise in local violence, we must reaffirm our commitment and that of our States. I want to testify here to France's commitment to this fight at the highest level.

Like Ms Petra BAYR, I am convinced that education and culture must play a central role in this fight, because knowledge of religions and our history is the best asset to prevent antisemitism and to avoid our fellow citizens being fooled by conspiracy theories.

The fight against online hatred must also be a priority. I fully support the report's proposals for better regulation of digital platforms and rapid ratification of the additional protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime.

I thank you for your support.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Nicole DURANTON.

We continue to Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS from the Socialist Group and the United Kingdom.

The floor is yours. Thank you.


United Kingdom, SOC


Thank you, Madam Chair.

I stand here as a recent National Church Leader and a more recent actor in the world of politics. From both sectors I recognise the capacities that exist that prove antisemitic attitudes have been bred into, hardwired into, the DNA of people in our public life. I am most grateful to Ms Petra BAYR for her report that has laid bare much of this and indeed to the rich speech that we had from the rabbi following her speech earlier.

In Britain, though antisemitism is a cross-party concern, my own party, the Labour Party, suffered years of mismanagement and a lack of leadership which allowed antisemitism to flourish. Happily, our recent results, including in the local elections, indicate that relations with the Jewish community are on the mend. The lesson for us was that we required a vocal leadership willing to speak out to boot antisemites out of our party to establish regular engagement with the Jewish community and to treat people with respect and investigate their concerns when they told us they were being victimised and not to pretend that they were overstating the problem.

The prevalence of antisemitism is only too obvious from recent events. amd others have mentioned that. The pandemic and various actions from the war in Ukraine have shown how old tropes can find new life in recent events. All this points to our need to be vigilant, to tackle antisemitism both online and off, colleagues at home are working to improve proposed legislation to tackle online harms as we have seen implemented at the EU level, and we must hold tech companies to account for their repeated failure to apply their own policies against antisemitism where they exist. Abuses of these matters require outspoken condemnation from elected leaders, including, of course, ourselves. Despite recent difficulties in Britain, we believe that we do have good practice to share. As we attempt to become, as my colleague Lord Simon RUSSELL said earlier, part of the solution.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism has run three major inquiries, made recommendations, now long implemented, which put in place frameworks to address antisemitism. We have ensured nearly every parliamentarian has signed up to the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The independent adviser on antisemitism Lord Mann has worked to see its adoption and implementation across the football, wider sporting, higher education and other sectors, too.

But Britain, like other members of the Council of Europe, is, as I say, not immune from antisemitism, but colleagues, I among them will fight it. I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand here today and as a member of our Parliament, I would always speak publicly against any manifestation of antisemitism drawn to my attention.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Lord GRIFFITHS.

We then go for Mr François CALVET from France and the Group of the European People's Party.

The floor is yours.

Mr François CALVET

France, EPP/CD


Madam President,

Madam Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Stockholm,

Dear Colleagues,

The report of our colleague Ms Petra BAYR underlines how much the prevention and the fight against antisemitism are a continuous fight that we, unfortunately, have to carry on.

It gives us alarming figures on antisemitism in Europe. I can only corroborate these figures in the light of the situation in France, where the number of antisemitic incidents has increased significantly in recent years.

According to an IFOP study conducted in 2020, seven out of ten French people of the Jewish faith say they have already been victims of an antisemitic act.

A report on anti-religious acts submitted to the government highlights the development of antisemitism in the community, with victims being affected within their homes, as well as the enrolment of children of the Jewish faith in private schools for security reasons. According to Jean-Pierre Obin's data, in fifteen years, more than two thirds of the 100 000 Jewish pupils in our country have been removed from the public education system in favor of private schools. There is also a significant proportion of weapons used in physical attacks and threats of an antisemitic nature.

These alarming figures and facts must challenge us collectively and make us react. Let's remember that antisemitism is not an opinion, but a criminal offence.

In order to act appropriately, we must be able to characterise as precisely as possible what contemporary antisemitism is. I, therefore, agree with our colleague's proposal when she calls on member States to use the operational definition of antisemitism given by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

This definition, adopted on 26 March 2016 by its 31 member States, including France, states that "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities." It allows for a better consideration of the antisemitic dimension of certain attacks against Israel, while not infringing on freedom of expression.

Referring to this definition provides an additional instrument for prevention, education, training and repression to better combat antisemitism.

The French Senate has supported this approach, and I can only support our colleague's proposal today.

We cannot accept the trivialisation of antisemitism. We cannot accept discrimination, stigmatisation and violence against people of the Jewish faith any more than against people of other faiths.

I hope that this debate will contribute to encouraging all the member States of our Organisation to act resolutely against antisemitism.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister François CALVET.

Then I give the floor to Sir Edward LEIGH, from the United Kingdom, and the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

The floor is yours.


Sir Edward LEIGH

United Kingdom, EC/DA


Can you hear me?

Thank you very much for calling me in this debate.

It's a great honour to speak in this debate, because the scourge of antisemitism is something that disfigures and has disfigured large parts of Europe and European history.

I'm pleased to say that the only country I can speak of with any real knowledge, the United Kingdom, has enjoyed, over the last century, extremely good relations with our Jewish community. There was a large Jewish community in the United Kingdom at the end of the 19th century, following pogroms in Russia and other places.

I have to say that the way that the Jewish community has integrated itself in the United Kingdom is an absolute object lesson for every single immigrant community.

There is quite a large Jewish population. They have fully integrated themselves, taken English names, they have risen to the top of every part of society. I mean, it would be very... there are religious Jews, there are liberal Jews, there are Orthodox Jews. In many cases it's impossible to know that they are anything but completely loyal, hard-working members of the United Kingdom.

I think the message I want to give to other immigrant communities is you are very welcome in our society. But you have to try to integrate yourself fully into our society and proclaim that, of course, if you are religious, your religion is terribly important to you and you should have an absolute right to practice it. You can be Jewish or anything else, but first of all you are British, and loyal to Great Britain. That is what our Jewish community has done. That is why there is very little antisemitism in the United Kingdom.

Now, often, antisemitism, the attacks on Israel are a sort of proxy for antisemitism. But I think it is perfectly possible for many of us, particularly those of us of a conservative persuasion, to embrace Judaism to support fully the right of Israel to exist, but also to reclaim the rights of Palestinians to fairness and to their own statehood.

I think if you put it in that way, you cannot be accused of being antisemitic.

The two points I want to make are:

- Let us embrace our Jewish community. Let us recognise them, not just tolerate them, but love them as the source of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

- Let us support the right of Israel to exist and also the rights of Palestinians.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Sir Edward LEIGH.

The last speaker before I close the list is Ms Christiana EROTOKRITOU, from the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

The floor is yours.


Cyprus, SOC


Thank you, Madam President.

First of all let me thank our colleague Ms Petra BAYR for this excellent, excellent and concise report.

Dear Colleagues,

Unfortunately, antisemitism is once again on the rise in Europe. Antisemitism is a grave human rights violation and should be condemned and treated as such. Preventing and combating the phenomenon should be a priority in all our member Sates.

Jews do not mastermind any global plot, nor have they manipulated events to further their goals. These long-standing antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories, as well as the vehemence of their claims, serve as a chilling reminder that extreme groups across Europe still use Jewish people as scapegoats in numerous occasions and crisis, stirring up violent discourse and violence against them for political gains.

However, what is even more alarming is that many people of the Jewish community are fleeing Europe because of the increasing aggressions against them as Jewish representatives in Brussels have already warned.

A study published in 2021 by the Action and Protection Foundation, an organisation that monitors antisemitic aggressions and hate crimes, clearly shows that antisemitism is deep-rooted, and even increasing in Europe, some 80 years after the Holocaust. According to the same study, antisemitic sentiment is strongest in Greece, Poland, Slovakia, and Romania, while Germany was the country with the greatest number of violent antisemitic attacks in the EU in 2020, with 59 recorded cases.

At the same time, antisemitic incidents have sharply risen in France, the country with the most Jewish population globally after Israel and the United States.

That is why fostering Jewish life in Europe, promoting an image of tolerance, encouraging interfaith dialogue, respect for diversity and multiculturalism, is of paramount importance.

History teaching of the Holocaust should also be included in schools' curricula as a matter of priority. Holocaust remembrance ceremonies not only need to be conserved, but also enriched, with educational visits to Holocaust memorials, Jewish museums, and former concentration camps.

In Cyprus, every year on the 27th of January, we honour and remember the millions of victims of this atrocious crime in history. This day constitutes an occasion of remembrance, reflection, and assertion of Cyprus' unwavering commitment to counter antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance and discrimination.

We welcome all the provisions of the draft resolution before us, especially as regards the criminalisation of the denial, trivialising or condoning of the Holocaust. We have to step up efforts in deploying and funding targeted action plans to this effect.

We also commend the steps taken by the Assembly and other Council of Europe bodies in the fight against antisemitism, particularly the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance.

Any form of hate speech against religious or ethnic groups must be uprooted.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much. That concludes the list of speakers.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report. I remind colleagues that type-written texts must be submitted electronically, no later than 4 hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

I call Ms BAYR, rapporteur, to reply to the debate. You have 5 minutes.

The floor is yours.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you very much, Madam President.

Thank you all my colleagues for this very rich debate, for this broad support on this report. I think most of what is said I totally agree with just to tackle some issues, yes, legal measures are important. The new approach of the European Union, as countries, as the member countries, to appoint co-ordinators is important and really makes a difference obviously in many cases.

I also totally agree that it is so important to have desegregated data about antisemitism because we really just can act and can make evidence-based policy if we know what is going on where, who are the victims, and who were the perpetrators.

I also totally agree that it is so important to include young people to have an education that is really tailormade for diverse groups. Also, not only the young: I think the elderly sometimes need education on this. I agree that a holistic strategy to promote human rights, and with that, to combat racism, antisemitism intolerance, in general, is important. Yes, education about the Holocaust is important but, it is, as we also heard, it is also educated people who can be antisemites. It is important also to have in mind that it is not always the only possibility how do to fight it.

Yes, I also very much regret that we did not have much success since our last time in 2018, I think, that we had the last report on this issue here. It is really a disaster that we still have to tackle this issue. I am afraid we will have to come back to this topic once more because I am not totally convinced that we will overcome antisemitism in the next few years.

After the question of the definition was stressed sometimes, it was not by accident that I used the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism and not any other. There exists a variety of other definitions as well. I raised this issue in some of the talks I had with experts on combating antisemitism and they unanimously said, yes, it makes sense to use one definition only and to use this definition that is used by so many other countries, by so many other important multilateral international bodies.

For me, the Jerusalem Declaration is too narrow. In 10 out of the 15 points, it mentions, only refers to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. I think that our struggle against antisemitism is a global one and much broader than only having a focus on the Middle East conflict. The IHRA definition, indeed, is much broader. It is not only signed by scholars, it is also really used by states.

Yes, it is not a legal tool; it is a working definition that gives you guidance on what to categorise as antisemitism and what not. I am not afraid that any individuals or NGOs could be blamed for being antisemitic if they are not criticising Israel. You can criticise Israel, it is just the question of how you do it. How, what language you use.

I am quite confident that with the IHRA definition, we can do whatever is needed to do. I really would like to distinguish between the debates on the Middle East conflict, and we have to have a stand on that and the antisemitism that we are fighting globally and that is not bound to the Middle East conflict only.

To finish, this "never again", which we also hear today very often is not to commemorate the dead victims of the Shoah and at the same time ignore hostility towards Jews alive. "Never again" must be understood as a future imperative to fight antisemitism to do that always and everywhere. I hope that we will win the fight all together in our lifetimes. That would really be a great success.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam BAYR.

Mister Fourat BEN CHIKHA, Vice-Chair of the Committee, do you wish to speak?

Yes? Then you have 3 minutes.

The floor is yours.


Belgium, SOC, Vice Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination


Dear President,

Madam Petra BAYR, Madam Ute STEYER, Dear Colleagues,

In the name of the members of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, I would like to congratulate our rapporteur Ms Petra BAYR for her work on this report and for her dedication.

I would also like to thank Ms Ute STEYER for coming from Sweden to Strasbourg to address the Assembly and plenary. Thank you very much.

The report is presented to you today as a result of several rounds of discussion; two hearings in the committee and numerous consultations with the Council of Europe and with external partners.

I know that Ms Petra BAYR co-operated closely with the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) which published last year its revised General Policy Recommendation No. 9 on preventing and combating antisemitism.

Our Committee and the No Hate Parliamentarian Alliance, indeed, have an excellent co‑operation with ECRI. I hope it will continue to develop.

The work contributes to raising awareness on the multiple challenges faced by Jewish communities today in Europe. It stresses that antisemitism is not a threat from the past. It sheds light on the rise of antisemitic attacks online, on the high level of prejudice against Jewish people in European societies, and on the emerging conspiracy accusing Jewish people of creating, spreading and benefiting from the Covid-19 health crisis.

This report recalls that preventing and combating antisemitism is a concern for all of us. The resolution presents concrete actions to tackle antisemitism at a national and international level. It calls on the Council of Europe member States to step up efforts to ensure support and protection to prevent and combat hatred and discrimination.

There was a unanimity for the draft resolution at the committee meeting held in Stockholm in May, showing strong support of the Committee for this text.

I hope you will also be in position to support this text.

Our Assembly should send a strong message today and clearly state that there is no place for hatred in Europe.

Thank you very much.

Mr Larry BROCK



Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2

Though Canada is a multicultural and diverse country, in 2020, Canadians nonetheless reported to the police more than 2,600 criminal incidents that were motivated by hate. That marked a 37% increase compared to the previous year and was the largest recorded number since 2009.

In Canada, hate crime is defined as a criminal violation against a person or property motivated by hate, based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, or any other similar factor. In addition, the Canadian Criminal Code lists four specific offences as hate propaganda and hate crimes: advocating genocide; public incitement of hatred; wilful promotion of hatred, all when directed against an identifiable group, and; mischief motivated by hate in relation to property primarily used for religious worship.

The first two hate provisions were first added to the Criminal Code in 1970 in response to the recommendations of the Special Committee on Hate Propaganda in Canada that was created after a series of anti-Semitic and anti‑Black incidents.

Unfortunately, hate crimes targeting the Black and Jewish communities remain the most common types of hate crimes reported by police, representing 26% and 13% of all hate crimes in 2020, respectively.

There are also reports of record levels of online antisemitism.

In 2021, one Jewish advocacy group reported 2,093 incidents of online hate – an increase of more than 12.3% over 2020.

Efforts to combat antisemitism in Canada continue, I will provide two examples.

In 2018, the Canadian Parliament passed a legislation that each May 1st marks the beginning of Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. It creates a time to celebrate Jewish culture and reflect on the significant contributions that have been made by many Jewish Canadians. It follows Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 2021, the Canadian Anti-Racism Secretariat organized a National Summit on Antisemitism, which aimed to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of antisemitism in Canada and to identify concrete steps the federal government could take to address the prejudice faced by the Jewish community.

Following the summit, the Government of Canada committed to better engage the Jewish community in the development of its next Anti-Racism Strategy, to improve digital literacy, and to tackle misinformation that breeds antisemitism. It will also fund the construction of a Holocaust Museum in Toronto.


Norway, SOC


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Madame President, colleagues!

First I would like to thank the rapporteur for a job well done.

This is an important matter for many people living in Europe. Unfortunately in Europe today we see and experience, Jewish people having to leave their homes as a consequence of antisemitism. Our communities must be for all people, regardless of faith and religious conviction. Therefore we need states and governments to issue measures against antisemitism and other forms of hatred.

Historically, Jewish people have often been accused for bad things happening. I wish these old conspiracy theories would be a thing of the past, but even now, in 2022 Jewish people are being blamed for things, for example the Covid-19 pandemic. Can you believe it? «It was not a bat in China, but a Jew that created the disease.» Of course this is ridiculous for us, but some believe it as facts. Addressing antisemitic conspiracy theories is an essential part of the fight against antisemitism.

Madame President, I don’t believe in prohibiting antisemitism. The freedom of speech is a basic human right, it has a strong standing in many countries, such as in Norway. I think there are other measures that are more suitable to achieve our goal: A society based on human rights without antisemitism and other forms of hatred.

So how can we achieve this objective? I agree with those who highlight investing in history and education as important actions.

A couple of weeks ago, the 10th grade at a small school in a little community in my constituency, went to Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen to learn about what happened there during the Second World War. Many Jewish people were sent there never to return home. Today, many people deny that this ever happened. But the pupils at Fagertun primary school in Rendalen now know it was for real.

A prohibition of Holocaust denial does not change what people believe, but knowledge and education can and will.

Together with a unanimous Committee of Equality and Non-Discrimination, I urge the Council of Europe member and observer States to take action. But perhaps the most important work can be done by each and every one of us.

We need to clearly speak out against antisemitism and other forms of hatred. Not only as politicians, but as fellow human beings.

Thank you!

Vote: Preventing and combating antisemitism in Europe

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Fourat BEN CHIKHA.

The debate is closed.

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented a draft resolution, Document 15539, to which one amendment has been tabled.

I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

Who wishes to speak to support Amendment 1?

Mister Christophe LACROIX, you have the floor.

Mr Christophe LACROIX

Belgium, SOC


Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

The proposed amendment seeks to supplement the 2016 IHRA definition with the 2020 Jerusalem Declaration, which more accurately defines antisemitism.

The Jerusalem Declaration better identifies antisemitic acts. It better protects Jewish individuals and ensures respect for freedom of expression in the context of fair criticism of the State of Israel, its government, and also guarantees the defense of the rights of the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

Mister Titus CORLĂŢEAN, the floor is yours.


Romania, SOC


Yes, Madam President.

Colleagues, I proposed to reject this amendment and by that to support the position expressed by our rapporteur as expressed also in the draft report.

As I already explained, the rapporteur makes the reference to the the first-ever definition correctly. It's a working definition adopted after long years of negotiations between the states and governments within the International Holocaust Remembrance and supported as well by UN Secretary-General and by ECRI with a very good guideline.

So, I reject the amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Titus CORLĂŢEAN.

What is the opinion of the Committee on the Amendment?

The Committee is against.

Thank you.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The Amendment is rejected.

Thank you.

I will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15539 as amended.

A simple majority is required and members present in the chamber should use the hemicycle voting system.

The vote is now open.

The vote is now closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Draft resolution Document 15539 is adopted.

Thank you.


Address by Her Excellency Ms Katerina SAKELLAROPOULOU, President of the Hellenic Republic

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

May I now welcome to this Chamber Her Excellency Ms Katerina SAKELLAROPOULOU, the President of the Hellenic Republic.

The President will address us and answer questions.


Dear Madam President,

You're sitting there, I'm sitting here. You are as tall as my Secretary General, but we can communicate in this way.

Welcome to our Hemicycle, which I like to call an agora of Europe where dialogue and diplomacy flourish, taking inspiration from the Ecclesia in ancient Greece.

Although Madam President, bearing in mind that women did not really participate then in Greek democracy; in this respect, times have changed for the better. The Greek parliamentary delegation now has to date five female members and a female president, Ms Dora Bakoyannis; the Secretary General of the Council of Europe is a woman; and the Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly is also a woman, and by the way, a Greek woman.

And you, Madam President, you are the first female president of the Hellenic Republic.

You're also praised for managing to remain very down-to-earth, even after being called to the high office of President of the Hellenic Republic.

You show real interest in refugees, in members of the Roma community, in homeless and neglected people.

You also visit the small islands of your great country, where only a few residents are left and sometimes feel a bit forgotten.

You speak out against the abuse of women and homophobia and other forms of discrimination.

You are known, Madam President, for your great passion for art and culture.

You communicate, yes, via speeches and articles in newspapers and academic magazines, but also via podcasts and other modern means of technology. Therefore you are also seen as a very modern president.

Madam President, you are also unanimously elected president. Unanimity is not the first thing which comes to mind when observing politics in general nowadays.

Although this Parliamentary Assembly proves regularly that it is possible to develop a common position in essential matters; I refer to decisions taken here with regard to recent crises, such as the protection of human rights in times of a pandemic, and the consequences of the Russian war of aggression against our member state Ukraine; also with regard to proposals to define the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right, we reached a consensus in this hemicycle.

Then, Madam President, this Assembly indeed functions as an agora, not as an arena.

Your country, Madam President, Greece is one of Europe's oldest. Your history has taught important lessons to the whole of Europe. Your country is also one of Europe's most challenged ones. The financial crisis has hit your citizens hard and the migration flows often land at your shores.

The pandemic was very difficult for you and your citizens.

The Eastern Mediterranean offers great opportunities, but is also full of tension and dangers. And the war in Ukraine is nearby, especially for Greece.

Madam President, taking into account your personal, political and legal experience and expertise, including in the fields of human rights and environmental protection, we very much look forward to hear your vision on how to address the many challenges that Greece and Europe are currently facing.

Madam President, thank you again very much for your presence here today.

May I please ask you to take the floor.


President of the Hellenic Republic


Honourable President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Madam Secretary General of the Council of Europe,

Members of the Assembly,

Excellencies Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the honour you have bestowed upon me and warm welcome to this historic institution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. An institution founded on the ruins of war, with a vision of European unity in defence of democracy, human rights, and rule of law.

Based in Strasbourg, a symbolic city that embodies the inexhaustible human desire for peace and justice. In the halls and corridors of this building, the visitor comes face to face with the project and the challenges of European coexistence in all its glory. One comes into contact, one feels, one sees the plurality of representation, the political and cultural nuances of the peoples of Europe, the diversities and at the same time the fundamental principles of our common path: hope and faith in our Europe.

For Greece, the democratic symbolism of the Parliamentary Assembly, this agora, this meeting place of ideas, has left an indelible mark on its political identity. It is part of its universal spiritual tradition and legacy. Part of Greece's ancient heritage that has travelled down through the ages to modern times, and illuminates our political life. The freedom of the people of antiquity with the core value of participation and citizenship, virtue, and virtuous subject, who respects the public good and interest, was inseparable from the freedom of the man of modern times. The emergence of the uniqueness of the person in his or her privacy.

This is how the modern way of life is structured, as well as liberal democracy.

Greece's ties with Europe go back to the birth of the Greek state and the influence of the ideas of the enlightenment on the Greeks, rebelling then against the Ottoman Empire. In the revolution of 1821, Greek pre-modern communitarianism merged with the universality of European humanism and its political and constitutional prise of position, those being popular sovereignty and representation, the representation of powers and the separation of them as well. Fundamental rights, furthermore.

In the 19th century, European powers recognised in Greece their spiritual origin. In Europe, Greeks found their model and support for their sovereignty.

Throughout its modern history, my country has remained committed to its European identity and course, adopting a firm position on the right side of history.

During the dark seven years of dictatorship in Greece, the Council of Europe gave a voice and a platform to those who were persectuded by the military junta, drawing attention to the political prisoners and the victims of torture.

The expulsion of Greece from the Council in 1969 was instrumental in delegitimising the Colonels and strengthening the struggle for democracy in the country. For the first time, a Council member State was expelled for systematic human rights violations by its undemocratic regime.

Over the last 40 years, Greece's most peaceful and progressive period, the post-junta, the post-military dictatorship period, has coincided not coincidently with European integration and development.

Greeks owe much to Europe. Their economic growth and mobility, travel and study, security and stability in the troubled Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean region. Despite the tensions, especially during the recent economic crisis, when along with valuable assistance, Europe in certain circumstances showed admittedly excessive harshness towards Greece. Nonetheless, the existential conviction that Greece is stronger in Europe, that its place is in the big European family, that conviction never faded.

Today, my country and Europe are facing together extremely demanding challenges concerning both the material and institutional conditions to fulfil and enjoy democracy.

The era of successive crises has disrupted the status quo of post-war Europe.

A new normal, that of the painful adaptation of European peoples to abrupt and radical transformations of a globalised and contradictory society is taking root and requires very painful decisions and international co‑ordination. It requires vigilance and importantly, it requires political unity and purposefulness.

Europe has reached a crucial crossroad as the tumultuous history overturns any illusions we may have had about its linear or rational evolution, and takes us back to our darkest experiences of the past.

Today, we are once again experiencing the rise of nationalism and the barbarity that causes untold pain, destruction, and death.

Russia's unprovoked and heinous war in Ukraine reminds us of Türkiye's illegal invasion of Cyprus 48 years ago.

Greece has stood by Ukraine from the very first moment, and together with our partners, we have called on Russia to comply with international law.

The Russian attack, however, is not only a territorial or geostrategic claim. It is a direct and frontal challenge to liberal democracy and to European values as well.

Behind the atrocious war crimes lay authoritarian revisionism and a will to reorder and re-carve, by any means, at any cost, the axis, the course of history. Russia's invasion does not only concern the heroic Ukrainian people, who are giving us the highest example of self-sacrifice and patriotism. It is a matter for all of us; the vision of peace and freedom sometime requires a heavy toll of blood. That is what the brave Ukrainians are paying today. They have our admiration, our solidarity and our unwavering support.

The decisions adopted unanimously by the Assembly during the extraordinary Plenary Session last March and the subsequent decision of the Council of Ministers to expel Russia from the Council of Europe sent a strong message of unity. Unity of the institutions of the Council of Europe. It remains however a blow. A blow in so far it deprives Russian citizens of the possibility of appealing to the European Court of Human Rights to protect themselves against their own government.

It is necessary to strengthen the Council's role in maintaining multilateralism on the continent in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter, in co-operation with the European Union, the United Nations, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

This is also the extent of the proposal unanimously adopted by the Plenary of the Parliamentary Assembly to set up an ad-hoc international judicial body to investigate crimes committed in Ukraine by Russian military forces.

Greece's interest in the Mariupol region, where a Greek community of more than 100 000 people has lived for centuries, is well known. The ministerial meeting in Turin decided to set up a high-level reflection group and to examine new challenges for the organisation.

It is an honour for my country that the Secretary General of the Council has chosen Mr Evangelos VENIZELOS to participate in this group.

Greece supports the proposal to convene a fourth summit on the future of the Council of Europe, provided that it is well-prepared and has clear objectives in order for it to be of the highest success.

Europe remains a prosperous region of the world oriented to its quality of life and the expansion of individual and social rights. Nevertheless, following the wave of democratisation in the 1990s, the world's liberal democracies are on the decline.

In 2022, for the first time since 2004, fewer democracies than authoritarian regimes are recorded. In non-liberal democracies, the counterbalances of the rule of law are receding, and the will of the majority is acting oppressively on minorities in the name of a supposedly charismatic exercising of power.

Divisive populist policies drawing a line between enemies and friends are contrary to the acquis of constitutional democracy.

Freedom of the press and the protection of journalists from unfair persecution, as well as the independence of the judiciary, are of great concern to the institutions of the Council of Europe. Particularly in countries with a weak tradition of the rule of law.

Democracy is not limited to the periodic holding of free elections without respect for freedoms such as the freedom of expression and the freedom to assemble.

Nor, on the other hand, can the freedom to enjoy individual and social rights be understood without popular sovereignty and democratic principles. The rule of law and democracy must be in unity, not in opposition.

Even in the most mature European democracies, divisions and contradictions are clearly visible and reinforce divisive tendencies within the Union.

The economic crisis that erupted at the end of the first decade of the 21st century as a banking and fiscal crisis is now taking the form of an acute energy problem with horizontal consequences.

The middle and lower classes are exposed to higher social and labour competition, and are losing purchasing power. Young people have to work much harder today than their parents to fulfil their own life plan. Shortages of energy and food resources, as well as the prices of goods in inflationary conditions, combined with economic insecurity and growing inequalities underline the need for additional and flexible financing instruments. In particular, following the adversity of the three-year pandemic.

This is all necessary for the global economy. It is, therefore, particularly crucial to safeguard the regulatory nature and effective implementation of social rights.

The progress made in the Council of Europe in improving the European Social Charter system is extremely remarkable and important. It is the expectation of all of us that a renewed and more effective monitoring system will be in place, which will strengthen the implementation of the Social Charter and the system of social rights in member States, particularly in times of crisis.

The welfare state is being revisited in the digital triangle of work, health, education, with the impetus of teleworking, biogenetics, artificial intelligence and online education.

The Council of Europe has carried out important work in the field of artificial intelligence, and the outcome of the work of the new Committee on Artificial Intelligence is being looked forward to with great joy, to establish the appropriate legal framework for further development.

At the same time, multiple crises are affecting the struggle to fight climate change. It is right to say there is no more time for our environmental awakening. The goal of climate neutrality by 2050, and a full transition in a climate justice oriented way to renewable and environmentally friendly energy source is undermined by a temporary return to traditional forms.

However, there are many loud voices that reasonably warn us that the war in Ukraine should not ultimately become a pretext for slowing down the green transition, but should instead contribute to accelerating it.

Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and standards enshrined by the European Committee on Social Rights are emerging as the guide in the fight against the climate crisis.

Clean and sustainable development policies are not only a guarantee for the sustainability of our planet, but also the intangible dimension of our everyday life. The lifestyle of our culture.

In today's society of risk, the principle of prevention is expanding and becoming much more important than the repressive actions of the state. Managing climate change must be an important opportunity for international co-operation, for a concerted effort and planetary sensitivity. In other words, this ought to be a message of hope and responsibility to ourselves and to future generations as well.

The painful experience of the pandemic, at its outset found many European countries unprepared. The priorities and actions of the recent Greek Presidency of the Council of Europe included the protection of human life and public health in conditions of a pandemic, and the effective management of a health crisis with full respect for human rights, and the principles of democracy and the rule of law as underlined in the Athens Declaration.

Covid-19 has not only put public health at risk, but also security and social cohesion, as restrictions on freedoms have touched upon all aspects of human life.

The high level of contagiousness and the mortality rate of the Covid-19 pandemic had heavy costs on human life and paralysed social, economic and professional activities. The entire fabric was affected.

We owe a debt of gratitude to science for giving us the vaccine and allowing us to regain our lives. The same goes to the medical and nursing staff, who fought and are still fighting heroically and tirelessly in adverse conditions, and succeeded in managing human suffering the extent possible.

The pandemic has taught us the value of solidarity. The value of empathy. The importance of the ethics of care and concern for our neighbour.

Fundamental rights are under intense pressure, and the institutions of the Council of Europe are seeking a reasonable balance between defending them and the general interest. New areas of tension are emerging on the subject of cultural and religious diversity.

It is unacceptable that antisemitic discourse and offensive denial of the Holocaust should be allowed in the supposed name of freedom of expression. Respect for religious freedom cannot embellish or tolerate unacceptable intolerant discourse or anachronistic practices that violate human dignity and gender equality.

The MeToo movement has grown in recent years and has highlighted, even in the context of the claustrophobic universe of the pandemic, the harsh reality for women, domestic violence, and the indirect or direct oppression in competitive spaces.

The Council of Europe's Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, the Istanbul Convention, is a compass for action.

The Council of Europe has done important work on this front, and I'm very glad that Ukraine has recently ratified the Convention.

Now, the Council of Europe has worked intensely on this particular front, emphasising the relevant strategy presented under the Italian Presidency in Rome.

At the same time, in the field of employment, states must take action to combat violence and harassment in the world of work, and to raise awareness among social partners and their citizens.

At the level of the drafting Committee, it is important that the draft recommendation on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings for the purpose of labour exploitation, which affects an increasing number of women, men, and children in member States of the Council of Europe, be forwarded to the Steering Committee on Human Rights.

Moreover, there must be a systematic and constant commitment to protect and promote the rights of LGBTQI+ people, as well as to preventing and combating all forms of discrimination and violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and biological characteristics.

The migration and refugee issue is testing our European humanism and raises the question of responsibility for managing the increased flows.

Greece has borne a disproportionate burden in an area that has brought to the surface disagreements and structural conflicts between member States. This issue does not lend itself to political instrumentalisation. Quite the contrary, it requires a common approach since it concerns our external borders, and its management is a shared responsibility of Europe, which is urgently called upon to adopt a comprehensive approach.

In this context, it is necessary, on the one hand, to ensure decent reception conditions for people seeking international protection, and on the other hand, to respect the principle of international law the prohibits the return of refugees to countries where their lives may be threatened.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Historic circumstances have overturned the optimism of the early days of our century. The ideal of a cosmopolitan society and the prospect of universal prosperity are fading as the successive and interconnected crises seem to act as accelerators and, unfortunately, emphasise the weaknesses of Europe and its contradictions. But the fathers of European integration did not envision it to be something simple. Europe was born from the ashes of the bloodiest war, and learned to survive and stand up through crises, to move forward, with compromises but also transcending, without abandoning its founding acquis and its core values.

There is an urgent need today for revisiting, restructuring development policies that must be aimed primarily at protecting the vulnerable and those who must not be left behind in the name of a mechanistic robotic concept of progress. I'm speaking here about unemployed individuals. The needy. Single parent families. People with disabilities. Inhabitants of remote mountain and island regions.

Europe's strength lies in inclusion and unity, not in the many different speeds of its peoples nor in the rift between north and south.

The war in Ukraine has had a catalytic effect in awakening our European consciousness and activating our democratic reflexes.

In the face of danger, Europeans have turned to all that which unites them: peace, freedom, solidarity.

The Council of Europe, with its judicial and advisory institutions, plays a critical role, crucial indeed, both legally and morally, and politically, in upholding the rule of law and deepening democracy in Europe.

The rich, coherent case law, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights highlights the shortcomings in national legal orders. It reshapes administrative practices, influences the role of the legislator, and even informally alters constitutional texts. It serves to shape European legal consciousness and has a pedagogical effect on issues such as respect for minorities and identities.

It is also necessary to emphasise the self evident and fundamental obligation of the member States of the Council of Europe to enforce the decisions of the Court.

The Venice Commission, with its opinions, has gained international recognition. Recognition as an authority on constitutional order and the rule of law.

We must also highlight the contributions of the Council of Europe and the work of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Their work has been exceptional.

We must commend the Council for its work in the fight against discrimination and racism and corruption.

Strengthening the Council of Europe's strategic co-operation with the European Union, which is its most valuable and reliable partner, is crucial for the coherence and implementation of European positions.

In this way, appropriate use will be made of the conclusions of the recent conference on the future of Europe and the proposals of the final report.

The inclusion of the negotiations, of course, as far as the European Union ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights is also very important.

The institutional memory, values and pragmatism of European institutions guarantee the future of Europe, guarantee the future of this continent. But above all, beyond the political and economic institutions, it is our common and profound experience, this rich and valuable experience of the harmonious coexistence of European peoples over seven decades, that fills us, in the most difficult times and moments, with great optimism.

Thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you so much, Madam President, for your words of wisdom to this Hemicycle.

I think all the colleagues listened carefully, but as we are politicians, we do not only want to listen but we also want to ask questions and to make remarks. You have agreed that you would be able and willing to answer our questions. 

We will first take five questions from the political groups. The first question comes from Mr Simon MOUTQUIN from Belgium. He will ask a question on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group. Every speaker will have 30 seconds.

Simon, you have the floor.


Belgium, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister President.

Madam President, Your Excellency,

I am delighted to start this question session with you.

In the light of your background, which is a background in law, moreover in environmental law, in the light of the Greek Constitution, which already enshrines the right to the environment in its constitution, but also in the light of the terrible fires that you are experiencing a lot in Greece, and I am currently thinking of the fire in the south of Athens, I would have liked to have your opinion on the anchoring of the right to a healthy environment in the legal instruments of the Council of Europe, and moreover an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Simon MOUTQUIN.

Madame President.


President of the Hellenic Republic


The issue of the protection of the environment is of extreme importance for all of us.

It is the future of our planet, and, as we all know, climate change, the climate crisis has been here for quite some time with us and is a great concern for society, for the various institutions and agencies in society, but with the development of the pandemic and after Russia's invasion of Ukraine we've had a kind of transposition of the gravity that we give for the importance that we give to certain issues. This doesn't mean that the climate crisis isn't here with us. We have to confront it. It is absolutely necessary, urgent, imperative.

Now, the right for people, citizens to a healthy environment, this is one of the most fundamental rights. A number of different efforts have been made in this particular direction. There are numerous different resolutions and proposals that have been made, and I wanted to mention the work that's been done by Mr Rik DAEMS, the predecessor of Mr Tiny KOX, and Mr KOX as well.

I think indeed we shall succeed with these strategic frameworks that have been put down and presented by Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ. I think indeed this has to be your priority for us, for the Council of Europe: the environment.

We all agree upon this.

Now, Greece. From the front, we adopted all of the proposals of the Parliamentary Assembly for an additional protocol. The right to a clean environment for citizens, creating a legal structure, so that there would be a legal basis upon which the court could function. As well, we have supported this from the very start. Now the position of Greece comes from our constitutional experience, because the Greek constitution, which was adopted immediately after the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1975, was one of the few at that particular time which enshrined the protection of the environment, cultural environment, natural environment as well. So, it is in that particular direction that we've been working. In the Greek Court of Cassation, where I worked in the past, much work has been done. There was a special department actually that dealt with environmental cases, a special department. Already from the 1980s there's been a legal framework for the environment, and a new framework has been established in 2020.

These are universal issues, all linked. The Council of Europe has a very key role to play in protecting the environment, not only protecting democracy, rule of law, but also this natural right to a clean environment. It is part of human dignity, of human health. It is the right to life essentially, a clean environment.

For that reason, I feel that the role of the Parliamentary Assembly is extremely important because beyond the legal work, the proposals, the recommendations, the resolutions, you all, you, the representatives of national parliaments, you can play a very important pedagogical role, educational role, conveying this message to the national parliament or the other direction. There can be a very wonderful dialogue that can take place to use all opportunities, all implements at our disposal in order to protect the environment.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam President.

I saw my predecessor smiling, sitting over there, when you answered with regard to the question of the environment.

The next question comes from Ms Ingjerd SCHOU from Norway, and she speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.


Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you.

Madam President,

Your country has welcomed and hosted a large number of refugees.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic the refugee situation in Greece received considerably more attention in this Assembly than it is today, since it has been overshadowed by the pandemic and then by the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Could you, Madam President, please update us on the situation?

What are the conditions in the refugee camps on the Greek Islands?

How is the co‑operation with other European countries?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Ingjerd SCHOU.

Madam President.


President of the Hellenic Republic


Greece constitutes one of the key entry points for migrants from third countries. I think you all know that. For a number of years, the burden has been disproportionate for Greece, essentially. From February or March 2020 and after, the migrant flows have dropped. Of course, we had the crisis in the Evros region in northern Greece. 

In 2022, migration is a phenomenon that will not simply go away. Wars, authoritarian regimes, and climate change will generate refugees. People always want a better future for themselves or they want to flee from authoritarian regimes which may threaten their lives. It is an issue which is of concern to all of us. It cannot be dealt with at the national level, at the level of a single country or at the entry point alone. There has to be, here as well, solidarity, a concerted effort, displayed by the member States of the Council of Europe. Solidarity was displayed. The flows of refugees that have come now from Ukraine; we have seen solidarity there. We need to have a sense of responsibility, a sense of solidarity. A joint approach, a joint decision, has to be made for all to bear part of the burden and thus we will be able to move forward effectively.

Now, with regard to Greece, to come to the second part of the question from the member, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU. Things have improved considerably since the very first years of that huge flow of refugees years ago. We have tried to combine the protection of fundamental rights of refugees and migrants and also local communities receiving these individuals. The local communities where this pressure was felt, they were under a kind of shock, if you like, so you try to create a balance between the protection of these individuals who are fleeing and the individuals, which are on the other side, in other words, who are receiving these people – the communities receiving these people.

In its efforts, Greece has created dignified places to host these individuals, quicker procedures, and we have a high level of acceptance of applications for asylum.

With regard to unaccompanied minors, we have a new prosecutor for them and special protection mechanisms for them. I have also visited a number of special shelters that have been put together by the Greek government with the support of other member States of the Council of Europe. The church has also played its role. The local communities, in putting together these particular shelters to protect these very vulnerable individuals, enjoy support at this point. Shelters for those requesting asylum have been provided as well.

A lot has been done, but there is still a lot that has to be done. One cannot say that no further improvement is needed.

Now, with regard to other countries, Greece has worked together with a number of member States on this particular front and beyond solidarity, and this seems like a responsibility that we have to display. Another facet is to fight migration at its origin. In other words, to see what the situation is in countries of Africa and the Middle East. See what can be done there in order to reduce these flows.

We have to fight human trafficking, a terrible phenomenon that we are all aware of. All of this, in combination with the management of borders, working together with the people that need support, that need help and that deserve this support.

That we have proper systems of return. There is no development on this particular front. There was an agreement between Greece and Türkiye and the European Union in 2016 with the pandemic, with that particular pretext. Türkiye has ceased to receive returns, but at some point, the Council of Europe may have to look at a kind of new approach on this matter. Each one of us will have to meet the responsibilities that we have taken on if we want to coexist in harmony. 

Now with regard to European action plans, a number have already been hammered out with countries such as Morocco, Libya, and a number of other countries as well. 

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam President.

The next question comes from Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER from the United Kingdom, who speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister President.

I wonder, Madam President, many, many warnings were given to you and many others about dependence on Russia except the last German government -  not the present one - has total dependence on gas and oil from Russia, now from a dictator who is causing enormous pain to one of our member States here.

Given that the German government then was wrong about what happened, and the way they've treated their economy, were they also wrong in taking austerity measures against Greece and demanding the EU put some of the hardest austerity measures as possible against your country and the people of Greece, and therefore causing the cold misery to which your economy, dare I say it, has yet to recover, Madam President?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER.

Madam President.


President of the Hellenic Republic


History will judge all of this.

The correctness of the policies that were adopted by previous German governments, on the issue of energy dependence on Russia, and on the way that the austerity measures, or the management of the financial crisis, were dealt with.

As will the correctness of the way that Greek governments of the past have managed this: history will judge this.

Now, with this war, with this barbarism, this attempt to wipe culture, a people off the map, and the humanitarian disasters: food, energy - all of these have been seriously affected.

I think we all have to focus our attention right now on what we're going to do in the future, and not issue blame to those in the past.

We have to work together concertedly to help Ukraine in order to see what we can do about this dependence, because we all depend on Russian gas and oil.

The energy sector is key here. We have to look at the various crises that are swirling around us now.

Now the fight of the Ukrainian people right now is for all of us, for the values of all, the values in which we in Europe believe in all member States, those values upon which this construct has been built: democracy, fundamental human rights, rule of law. After that, history will play its role, and we'll see who is responsible for what took place in the past, but we have to deal with all these key issues right now.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam President.

The next question comes from Mr Iulian BULAI from Romania, and he speaks on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Iulian BULAI

Romania, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Madam President,

Tomorrow an EU-Western Balkans top meeting is scheduled for discussing the future relationship.

The Greek Prime Minister Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis has recently advanced 2033 as a possible date for the EU integration for the Western Balkans.

How does Greece intend to help devise a roadmap for the acceleration of the integration calendar?

What kind of support are you ready to give to Greece's neighbours in the new regional context in order to counteract Russian and other non-EU influences?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Iulian BULAI.

Madam President.


President of the Hellenic Republic


Greece wholeheartedly supports the European integration of the Western Balkans.

At the 2003 Thessaloniki Summit, a clear message was delivered by Greece on this particular front.

Since that time, Greece has worked very very closely with the European Union in a constructive fashion in order to integrate the Western Balkans.

It is a very complex situation. We know that it requires numerous different stages of adjustment, a whole series of decisions. Now, of course, the Western Balkans has been a much more protracted procedure than elsewhere. There are numerous different systems and procedures to be adhered to. The incorporation of the Western Balkans also involves a transition of societies. The countries which are up now for candidacy, according to the decisions of the European Union, must make decisions on democratisation, on rule of law issues, and meeting of the Copenhagen criteria, whichever those may be. It is a very complex and long procedure.

There is no doubt that in the end, the incorporation of the Western Balkans into the European Union will be to the benefit of all. We once again wholeheartedly support this effort. It is important for our region; it is important for the entire European Union.

I do hope, indeed, that things will move a little bit faster in the future. Changes have already been incorporated to speed up the procedure.

Greece is providing considerable know-how with the various countries of the Western Balkans to facilitate that in this process, we are doing whatever we can. We hope that this procedure will end in a positive, fructiferous fashion. 

Thank you

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam President.

The last question on behalf of political groups comes from Mr George LOUCAIDES from Cyprus, and he speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.



Cyprus, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Your Excellency President of the Hellenic Republic,

On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, I'd like to warmly welcome you, and I'd like to thank you for your presence here today.

The question that I would like to submit on the part of my group has already been made by the socialist groups, so I'll focus on something else. Something else upon which you touched upon in your presentation, and that concerns social rights, the protection of the underprivileged, labour rights, social exclusion, poverty, inequality. Securing health, homes, and all those basic rights for our young people as well. The European Social Charter is what I'm referring to here. This is a key pillar of this organisation.

Could you tell us a little bit about how you're working at the national level and at the European level in order to secure fundamental rights for all?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, George.

Madam President?


President of the Hellenic Republic


I agree wholeheartedly with you.

The underprivileged, those who suffer most, in the pandemic, with climate change, with the threat of a food crisis or the possibilities of an energy crisis following the invasion of Ukraine. The effort that we all ought to make is to support these individuals, those who are vulnerable in society.

Now, that which I have seen in my work in the Court of Cassation, the high administrative court where I worked for 40 years, now there's been great progress which has been made through the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights to protect the environment, to protect vulnerable individuals on numerous different fronts as well.

As you know, in politics, there's always an issue of balance of power to... Frequently there's a desire to take much more ambitious decisions, but one has to strike a balance before making any decisions whatsoever. There were important steps made forward on the front of human rights and protection of human rights, and the Parliamentary Assembly, of course, just as the national parliaments have, an extremely important role to play because they express the aspirations, the desires of citizens, of societies. It has a very important role to play, once again I emphasise.

We'll have to see what sort of proposals were made by the Human Rights Committee to see what we'll have in the future as concerns the environment.

Now, as far as vulnerable groups, I think what ought to be done is that we have to make constant reference to vulnerable groups. I, too, try to bring up this issue repeatedly, and also to visit different shelters for the homeless, shelters for battered women, for people who have been abused. This is the work that I try to do, to promote this particular issue, to keep it in the eye of the public.

It is absolutely key to protect vulnerable individuals. That may be my small contribution in order to promote these issues. I think what a national parliament can do to exert pressure on the national governments, and structures like the Parliamentary Assembly as well, is to put together structures, to put together organisation, structures, agencies which have at the heart of their responsibility protecting vulnerable individuals.

This is all part of democracy.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam President.

Now, we will take three questions together if you allow me in order to give more members the chance to participate.

The first question comes from Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ from Turkey.

Ziya, you have the floor.


Türkiye, NR


Thank you, Chair.

Your Excellency,

As you may know, the tension in the Eastern Mediterranean is under subject of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

Greece claims that it favours applying to the International Court of Justice to settle disputes with Türkiye.

However, in 2015 Greece renewed several reservations to the International Court of Justice jurisdiction on issues such as demilitarisation, breadth of national airspace, demilitarisation of territorial waters, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone.

Do you think it is possible to go to the International Court of Justice with a view to settle disputes while Greece maintains these reservations?

Don't you find this very contradictory, your Excellency?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Mister Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER.

The next question comes from Ms Arta BILALLI ZENDELI, from North Macedonia.


North Macedonia, SOC


Thank you.

Your Excellency,

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Chair,

I come from North Macedonia, a country that had to change its name and became a member of NATO.

It makes us feel more protected nowadays, but unfortunately the rest - and also North Macedonia as a country from the Western Balkans - has open disputes with other countries within the western Balkans.

They are not all members of the European Union. They have open disputes - and to be sincere, the spirit of open disputes can be felt even in the Council of Europe.

What would be your message to Western Balkan countries that have open disputes among them, and which are trying to get integrated into the European Union?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam Arta BILALLI ZENDELI.

The third question comes from Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR from Hungary.


Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR

Hungary, EC/DA


Thank you, Mister President.

The European Commission has brushed aside the problem of enforcing the rights of 50 million citizens belonging to national and linguistic minorities, ignoring the will of more than one million voters who signed the Minority SafePack.

Ukraine has applied for EU candidate status, and we agree despite the fact that the Hungarian minority suffers serious atrocities there every day.

In your opinion, if Ukraine joins the EU, will minorities be granted the right to use the minority language and other minority rights?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Madam President, three not so easy questions to be answered, but you have the floor.


President of the Hellenic Republic


To the member from Türkiye, according to Article 36, we have recognised the decisions of the International Court of Justice since 1994. In 2015, we once again recognised the ruling with a specific declaration that was made including a couple of exceptions following the example of other European and non-European countries. To the contrary, Türkiye has not recognised the Court's authority on this particular matter. 

Now concerning the question from the member from North Macedonia, the Western Balkans is a very troubled region with numerous different open disputes, which have their roots in the past. That is why it would be very important for integration to take place as quickly as possible. There are numerous open dispute issues, which will have to be resolved as quickly as possible and perhaps integration will help. The message that I might send out is that political will is necessary, courage and gazing towards the future, that is what we ought to do for future generations to really put aside the differences of the past so that all can look towards the future with optimism and with hope. That is our responsibility towards younger generations. We have to find solutions. We have to find ways to overcome the numerous different problems that are confronted by countries in the Western Balkans.

Respect for international law is the compass here. That is the way we are to move forward in order to effectively resolve the problems that exist in the region. Of course, these have to be dealt with within the framework of the institutional structures that are there, with the system that has been set up in order to promote the prospects of a European future. 

Now, the member from Hungary. The question is related to the previous question as well. I do feel that the Copenhagen criteria have to be adhered to by any country applying to the European Union. Democracy, fundamental human rights, and the protection of minorities on this particular point. In the commitments that are taken or are made by a country applying to the European Union, of course, we have to have adherence to these very fundamental principles: the Copenhagen criteria. There are binding issues, of course, which have to be taken into close consideration. These are scrutinised as well, and it is within this particular framework that issues will be resolved or dealt with in some way, shape or form in order for integration to take place effectively.

Thank you very much.   

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam President.

We have now run out of time, so I have to interrupt the list of speakers.

May I thank you very much for your in-depth answers to our questions.

Once again thank you very much for being our guest here today. We wish you well in your country.


The sitting is closed at 1 p.m.