EU faces 'huge challenge' to reassure Jews about future in Europe
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The EU faces a "huge challenge" to reassure Jews about their future in Europe after the Islamist attacks in Paris stoked growing fears of anti-semitism, a top EU official said Wednesday, January 21.
European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans said the 28-nation bloc was determined to respond, in keeping with its core values of tolerance and inclusion.
"Today we see in some of our member states that a majority of the Jewish community is not sure that they have a future in Europe," Timmermans said after the Commission, the EU's executive arm, met to discuss counter-terrorism strategy.
"I think this is a huge challenge to the very foundation of European integration," he added.
He said the issue was more important than the single European currency or internal markets or other initiatives.
It is a "fundamental value" that everyone has a place in Europe no matter what his or her creed or background is.
Timmermans said Europeans must use education and other tools "to make sure that we don't lose part of our population to extremism, to fanaticism, to exclusion."
The Commission will do everything to develop a "strategy that offers hope and prospect for everyone in Europe," he said.
"Whether they are Jew, or Muslim, or Christian, or atheist, everybody has a place in this society," he added.
In France, home to Europe's largest Jewish community, estimated at up to 600,000, many are considering leaving as the number of anti-Semitic attacks soars.
An Islamist gunmen shot dead a policewoman and then four Jews in a kosher supermarket in the French capital on January 9 before he was killed by police.
An earlier attack on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine left 12 dead, sparking a huge outpouring of grief and defiance.
The deady violence brought back memories of March 2012 attacks in Toulouse, when Islamist Mohamed Merah shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school .
Such attacks are not limited to France.
In Brussels last year, a lone gunman killed four four people at the Jewish museum. - Rappler.com