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Interview with Dr. Sergey Lagodinsky on the German EU Presidency „Germany has a special responsibility“

Dr. Sergey Lagodinsky bei einer Veranstaltung in Berlin 2018. (Quelle: Flickr/ Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/ CC BY-SA 2.0)

Nikolas Lelle (Action Weeks Against Antisemitism): Dr. Lagodinsky, from 1 July 2020, Germany will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) for six months. What do you expect and demand of the German EU presidency when it comes to antisemitism?

Sergey Lagodinsky: Germany brings a special expertise in the field of antisemitism, and I mean this in a positive way: an expertise in the field of remembrance policy and in the special attention and sensitivity to the problem of antisemitism.

In 2018, the European Council adopted a declaration on combating antisemitism and developing a common security concept to better protect Jewish communities and institutions in Europe. The follow-up to this framework decision must be pursued seriously and systematically. In other words, what will actually result from the decision, as well as how and what measures will be implemented in the member states.

This also means that an operationalisation of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is important. It should be introduced in education, training and administrative structures, but also used to inform decision-making in the judiciary and in law enforcement.

Within the framework of its EU presidency, Germany also has a special responsibility in another respect. We are currently negotiating the EU budget for 2021-2027, where 20 percent of the funds for anti-racism and anti-antisemitism trainings and other civil society measures against group-related xenophobia are to be cut. That’s simply not acceptable! I expect Germany’s EU presidency to pay particular attention to this.

Also, with regards to the coronavirus pandemic recovery fund, we cannot allow social issues to give way to a purely economic form of crisis management.

What do you mean by that?

At an EU political level, we must not reduce the corona pandemic merely to economic issues. Of course, this aspect is important, as the economic consequences will be enormous. Our economic system will change and there will be disarray. But we must not forget that civic society bodies are also suffering, and they also need our support.

That is why recovery funds must be carefully and effectively geared towards preserving democracies, as well as towards anti-racism and anti-hate programmes. The strengthening of democratic structures that are opposed to racism, antisemitism and other forms of group-focused xenophobia, the strengthening of independent media, which have also been hard hit, must be a priority. Without this constitutional component, it will not work. Currently, I am dealing with the conditions attached to money from the recovery fund. In other words: what are the prerequisites for money from the recovery fund to flow into the respective member states?

How can civil society be strengthened during the crisis?

I am putting forward the proposal in the European Parliament that, before receiving the money, member states must explain how they intend to invest the funds outside of the economic sphere. That means, what amount as well as which measures they are planning for civil society, the non-profit sector, independent media and local communities. It may be therefore be an opportunity that this negotiation will take place during Germany’s EU presidency, as Germany is especially aware when it comes to this topic.

What does this crisis have to do with antisemitism?

In times of great uncertainty due to crises and epidemics, there is always a wave of irrational conspiracy myths that eventually affect minorities, or Jews in any case. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this yet and there will be more to come. We’ve only witnessed the first tremors so far and we have to be prepared for the fact that during the economic misery that will eventually break out, people will continue to search even more intensely and irrationally for those they perceive as guilty.

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