(JPost) The European Union will appoint two commissioners tasked with combating anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Frans Timmermans, the first vice president of the European Commission, announced.
Timmermans, speaking at a colloquium organized by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Brussels on Thursday, appeared to have listened to more than a year of lobbying by continental Jewish organizations that have been calling for the appointment of an anti-Semitism “czar.”
“The importance we attach to fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred also means that we do not just want to listen to you and your concerns today,” Timmermans told attendees, who included representatives of European Jewry.
“It means that we remain there to listen and help also when this colloquium is over. For this reason, Commissioner [for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera] Jourova and I have decided that we will designate, within the commission, two coordinators with specific responsibility for following issues relating to one, anti-Semitism and the other, Islamophobia. So one coordinator responsible to be your contact point on issues relating to anti-Semitism, another coordinator responsible as your point of contact for issues related to Islamophobia.
“I want to be in direct control of this: I will be your envoy, if you want to call it that. I will have two people in my services whose task it will be one, to make sure that the issue of anti-Semitism is her or his main activity, and the other, Islamophobia, and that they report to me directly so I know what I need to do when there is an issue at hand,” he said, adding that “whatever you say to them lands on my desk immediately.”
Both the European Jewish Congress and the US Senate have previously called for the establishment of such a position.
Representatives of organized Jewry were quick to praise the decision, although some said it could have been made much earlier.
Eli Ringer, the immediate past president of Belgium’s Forum der Joodse Organisaties, said Thursday’s announcement was a “first step” in finding a concrete way to fight for fundamental rights in Europe.
He recalled a meeting with Timmermans last April in which he requested the formation of just such an office and recommended that the issues of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia be separated.
“Both are indeed racism but need a different approach as they have a historical and a different background.
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