EU Commission president reinstates anti-Semitism conference
European Union Commission President Romano Prodi decided Wednesday evening to reinstate the European conference on anti-Semitism that he had cancelled on Tuesday.
A press statement issued by the European Commission in Brussels hinted that Prodi indicated preparations for the conference will be resumed.
"I believe we should confirm our desire to re-establish as soon as possible a fruitful cooperation with the Jewish organizations and, on this basis, to resume the preparations for the seminar. There are signs that things are moving in the right direction," said the statement.
"We should not lose this chance of debating and facing an issue, the fight against anti-Semitism and all racisms, that goes to the very core of the project of a Europe built in peace and security as a 'Union of minorities,'" the statement concluded.
Italy was ready to host seminarItalian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told World Jewish Congress leaders earlier on Wednesday that if Prodi stood by his decision to suspend the conference, Italy would host the conference.
Frattini also criticized as "childish" the decision to cancel the EU anti-Semitism conference.
According to sources in the World Jewish Congress, Germany is also willing to host a conference on anti-Semitism.
The seminar is to be the first forum on anti-Semitism held under EU auspices, and its earlier cancellation was seen as blow to the many organizations who work against anti-Semitism.
On Tuesday, government officials in Jerusalem expressed disappointment over Prodi's announcement.
Prodi's announcement to cancel the conference came after Jewish leaders accused the EU of "intellectual dishonesty and moral treachery" in handling the issue.
Prodi said in a letter to the World Jewish Congress and its European branch that the seminar, called amid a backdrop of rising vandalism against Jewish targets in Europe and strains with Israel, could not be held next month as planned.
"The attitude you have shown in your letter... forces me to suspend the preparations," he said.
In a letter to the Financial Times published Monday, the heads of the two Jewish organizations accused the EU's executive commission of censoring a study on the rise of anti-Semitic attacks and the involvement of Muslim minorities.
Shimon Samuels, in charge of foreign relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Center said nothing in the letter was new and therefore it appeared that Prodi's decision to use the letter as an excuse to cancel the seminar, which the EU Commission was very uncomfortable with to start with.
The Jewish leaders also complained about the release of a "flawed and dangerously inflammatory" EU poll in which Israel was named a threat to world peace more than any other country.
"Let us not mince words: Both of these actions were politically motivated, demonstrating a failure of will and decency," Edgar Bronfman, the president of the World Jewish Congress, and Coby Benatoff, the head of the European Jewish Congress.
"Outside Israel, the majority of the world's violent anti-Semitic attacks took place in western Europe. For the EU to hide these facts reeks of intellectual dishonesty and moral treachery," their joint letter said.
Prodi wrote to both saying he "was both surprised and shocked. I could not believe you were signing such an article."
He denied the Commission censored the study from the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, based in Vienna, Austria. "You perfectly know that the Vienna Center is an independent institution and that the European Commission has no power at all to interfere," he wrote.
He also dismissed suggestions that the recent Eurobarometer poll was "politically motivated," adding that no such criticism was leveled when he met Jewish leaders after its release in November.
After the poll's release, Prodi condemned lingering anti-Jewish bias he said was reflected in the survey.
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose country held the EU presidency at the time, called Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to express his "surprise and indignation" over the survey results, saying the question had been "misleading."
The Commission also announced the organization of a seminar "to reflect on the questions relating to Judaism, the state of Israel and different Mediterranean questions," which has now been suspended.