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Address by Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of The European Commission at the Dinner On Promoting Tolerance Throughout the European Continent


VIDEO

 

"We need to pass on this memory to our young generations. From an early age, future European citizens must be made aware that no country will tolerate these insane actions, and that vigilance is an absolute necessity when faced with provocations and extremism. We need to continuously fight against everything that divides and damages humanity, such as those who reject people or show hatred towards those who are different. This is how we will strengthen, without fail, the model for society where mutual respect and tolerance guides our actions. Friends, you have lived through a terrible period of history. Your experience has given you this ideal of fraternity, which should be the principal objective when we carry out our responsibilities."

Dear President Kantor!
Dear President Rubinfeld!
Ladies and Gentlemen!

I am pleased and very moved to be with you this evening to commemorate the terrible past events of Crystal Night.

These events take me back to memories of my childhood. I was fortunate to be born to a French family with very strong morals. My father, Noel Barrot, was inspired throughout his life by a feeling of deep respect for people. He played an active role in forming a civil resistance movement called 'Les Petits Bergers des Cevennes' or to translate into English 'the Little Shepherds of Cevenne'. During the bleak years of the Occupation, this movement helped welcome and save Jewish children, by placing them with families in this region of France. It is also where many escaped the Nazi persecution.

I have always believed that I was given a very spiritual heritage. I have strived to use this during my whole political career, as elected Member of Parliament for the Haute-Loire region and for the city of Chambon-sur-Lignon, which is recognised as a city 'Righteous Among the Nations'.

I carried on this tradition of welcoming people when I helped to create a reception centre for asylum seekers in the Chambon-sur-Lignon region. It is because of this experience that I will strive in my new responsibilities to harmonise the right to asylum in Europe; to do everything possible to create solidarity between European Member States in respect of ensuring protection to those who have experienced persecution.

My priority is to also ensure respect for fundamental rights, and dispel any form of discrimination. We want a European Union that sets an example for the respect of people, whatever their religious beliefs or ethnic backgrounds. The very values of reconciliation and tolerance which led to the creation of a united Europe impose this exemplary responsibility on us.

As Vice-President of the Commission in charge of Fundamental Rights, I wish to restate the Commission's firm condemnation for all manifestations of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. I am committed to ensuring that everyone respects the values and rights as set out in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. I will not tolerate any violation of this Charter.

The EU Fundamental Rights Agency, launched in March 2007 is also committed to fighting against anti-Semitism. For example:

  • The Agency has on-going data collections on anti-Semitism, racism and, xenophobia through RAXEN (European Information Network on Racism and Xenophobia), its EU wide network of national focal points.
  • The Agency has developed cooperation with Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust Remembrance authority. It organised a joint seminar with Yad Vashem in Vienna for EU educators on 9th & 10th November.
  • The Agency has also given a range of opinions on combating anti-Semitism including calls to implement legislation, to promote education and training measures and engaging intercultural dialogue.

The European Commission is determined to make full use its powers to adopt concrete measures to fight racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The draft Council Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia reached political agreement between Member States in April last year.

The purpose of this framework decision is to ensure that racism and xenophobia are punishable in all Member States by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties. Anti-Semitism and holocaust denial are not explicitly mentioned, but they are covered by the draft Framework Decision.

The framework decision has not been adopted yet (there has been some linguistic reserve, and the Latvian Parliament has not lifted its reservation on the text). I am strongly committed in having this framework decision adopted as soon as possible. On this anniversary, I hope alongside you to be loyal to the memory of all those who lost their lives during this dreadful time in the past, where humanity was scorned in the blood of genocide.

We need to pass on this memory to our young generations. From an early age, future European citizens must be made aware that no country will tolerate these insane actions, and that vigilance is an absolute necessity when faced with provocations and extremism. We need to continuously fight against everything that divides and damages humanity, such as those who reject people or show hatred towards those who are different. This is how we will strengthen, without fail, the model for society where mutual respect and tolerance guides our actions. Friends, you have lived through a terrible period of history. Your experience has given you this ideal of fraternity, which should be the principal objective when we carry out our responsibilities.

Since these awful events of the past, Europe has made a huge journey to rebuild what was destroyed and broken. Europe today is the antithesis of Crystal night. Rest assured that I will always be at your side to carry through this ideal, and to take action when it is missing, in order for a diverse, fraternal and peaceful Europe to continue to set an example to the rest of the world.

Thank you


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