EU official to act as envoy on anti-Semitism
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EU official to act as envoy on anti-Semitism

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans talking to the media prior an emergency EU heads of state summit on migration at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015.   (Martin Meissner/AP Images)

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans talking to the media prior an emergency EU heads of state summit on migration at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. (Martin Meissner/AP Images)

(JTA) — Following reports of underreporting of rising anti-Semitism in Europe, a senior EU official said he would act as the organization’s first envoy on the trend.

Frans Timmermans, a former foreign minister of the Netherlands and the first vice president of the European Commission, made the announcement on Thursday at a European Union event in Brussels attended by European Jewish Congress officials.

“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 said in a speech during the event, which his office titled the first Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in the European Union.

Timmermans, who is responsible for better regulation, the rule of law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, added: “I want to be in direct control of this. I will be your envoy if you want to call it that.” He also noted “new anti-Semitism that sometimes tries to hide behind anti-Zionism.”

He did not specify his tasks as EU envoy on anti-Semitism — a post that exists in the Israeli and French foreign ministries and the U.S. State Department.

At the same event, European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said during a speech that “if hundreds of thousands of Jews leave the European Union, which is becoming a very strong possibility, then it, too, will be judged a failure.”

Kantor referenced a statement earlier this year by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who said that “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”

Timmermans’ announcement came one day after the Fundamental Rights Agency — the EU organ responsible for countering discrimination and racism — published a report that spoke of underreporting that hampers its efforts.

In its Sept. 30 report, titled “Antisemitism — Overview of data available in the European Union 2004–2014,” the agency spoke of “gross underreporting” that makes it hard to document the trend of anti-Semitism. Still, Constantinos Manolopoulos, the agency’s head, warned in the report of a “climate of intolerance” in Europe and called for “immediate and decisive action to combat extremist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic discourse and crimes.”

The report noted that only two EU member states, Hungary and Sweden, recorded a decrease in anti-Semitic incidents. Belgian, French, Czech, and Dutch watchdog bodies reported sharp increases, while 13 member states either recorded zero incidents (Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia) or had no official or unofficial data.

Attacks against Muslims have also proliferated in recent years, and Timmermans on Thursday also said an envoy on what he called “anti-Muslim hatred” would also be appointed.

Referencing the EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, Vera Jourova, Timmermans wrote on Twitter that the two “have decided to designate in the Commission two coordinators: One for antisemitism and one for anti-Muslim hatred.”