The European Union will fund visits by European students to Holocaust memorial sites, announced Franco Fratini, Vice President of the European Commission, at the opening of the Second Israel/EU Seminar on Combating Racism and Antisemitism.

(Communicated by the MFA Spokesman)

At the opening of the Second Israel/EU Seminar on Combating Racism and Antisemitism (22 January), Franco Fratini, Vice President of the European Commission, said that Europe is not antisemitic territory, but antisemitic activity is growing on the continent. "We see antisemitism as contradicting the values on which the European Union was founded, and we are committed to fighting this phenomenon with all the necessary educational and legal means."

At the opening ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, the head of the Israeli delegation, Minister Isaac Herzog, who is responsible for Diaspora affairs and combating antisemitism, said, "We have disturbing information about the rise in antisemitic activity in Europe connected to radical Islamic groups, as well as the phenomenon of the ‘new antisemitism’ that hides behind anti-Zionism or anti-Israeli positions."

Minister Herzog said that Israel is pleased to note that many European leaders are sensitive to Israeli feelings on this subject and are working to change this situation. He added that the educational ministries in Europe should expand their activities on this topic. The Belgian minister of education is attending the seminar, as is the deputy education ministers of the Czech Republic, Romania, and Poland.

The Second Israel/EU Seminar on Combating Racism and Antisemitism is an outgrowth of the ENP (European Neighborhood Policy) action plan and the dialogue conducted by Israel with EU countries on the subject of combating racism and antisemitism. The first seminar took place a year ago (December 2006) in Brussels. The  ENP action plan outlines three main approaches in the Israel-EU joint program to combat racism and antisemitism: education, legislation, and ways to confront hate and incitement in the media and on the Internet. 

Aviva Raz-Shecter, Director of the Department for Combating Antisemitism in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which initiated the cooperation with the EU on this issue and the joint seminars, told the participants that the purpose of the seminar is to add a practical dimension to the mutual commitment made by the EU and Israel concerning combating racism and antisemitism, and to increase the cooperation between them. It is imperative, she said, to act together to draw conclusions from the bitter historical experience of the Holocaust and to apply these lessons on an ongoing, daily basis, particularly by educating the younger generation to be alert and aware of the dangers of racism and antisemitism and to prevent them, in order to build a better future for the coming generations.

Participants in the seminar will discuss practical plans and projects to promote cooperation. The International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem will host the seminar participants, explaining to them about its international activities and taking them on a tour of the new Holocaust museum and the other memorial sites there.