Wednesday, September 15, 2004

EU envoy: Anti-Muslim sentiment on rise

(source: Jerusalem Post)

European Union Ambassador Giancarlo Chevallard said Monday that while he can't say whether there has been an increase in European anti-Semitism, there has definitely been an increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab feeling.

Speaking at a press briefing in Tel Aviv, Chevallard said there is often "some confusion in Israel of criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism."

He admitted there is "anti-Israeli policy" in Europe. "There is a lot of difficulty comprehending the route of the [security] fence and expansion of settlements," he said.

But when asked whether he believes there has been an increase in anti-Semitism, or whether it is just anti-Israel expression, Chevallard said, "I have no answer for you."

He said that while he is not "ready to agree" that there has been an increase in anti-Semitism, anyone who goes to Europe can feel that there has been an increase in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feeling.

The increase of the Muslim population in Europe is seen by some as a challenge to their way of life, he said, adding that the much smaller Jewish population is not seen as a similar threat.Emanuele Giaufret, counselor in the delegation of the European Commission, said the reason the recent EU-commissioned study on anti-Semitism was shelved was because "it did not meet" professional standards.

The study was carried out by the Berlin Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the city's Technical University.

It was decided, Giaufret said, to launch a new study, and those preparing it will meet with representatives of the European Jewish community. The issue, he said, is very much on the EU's agenda.

Chevallard called the briefing prior to Tuesday's meeting of the foreign ministers of the countries involved in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (the Barcelona Process) in Naples. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom will attend, as will the foreign ministers of Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Chevallard said that an assembly of parliamentarians from EU and Mediterranean countries will be established at the meeting.On another issue, he said the European Commission was "pleasantly surprised" by Israel's decision to clearly label where products are manufactured on export certificates to Europe.

This is a "welcome initiative" that needs further study, he said, adding that now the technical details of this new policy must be thrashed out.For instance, it is not clear whether Israel will voluntarily send all its products to Europe bearing this information, or whether Israeli customs officials will now be willing to make this information known when asked by the EU.
Furthermore, how places of manufacture will be named will also have to be worked out.
For instance, since the Europeans view east Jerusalem as outside the Green Line, one question that will have to be dealt with is whether Israel will have to name where in Jerusalem products were manufactured. For instance, will it have to specify Ramot, Gilo, or Har Hahotzvim on products made in these post-1967 Jerusalem neighborhoods?In addition to the rules-of- origin issue, Chevallard said that Israel's recent decision to soften its boycott of the EU's special Middle East envoy Marc Otte because of a meeting he had with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was also a "step in the right direction."

While Israel now has given senior officials in various government ministries the okay to meet Otte, this does not extend to the political level, and cabinet ministers still are not to meet with him. "This is a step in the right direction, but not a resolution to the problem," Chevallard said.In general, he said, EU wants a "better hearing from Israel to our political concerns. We feel that they do not listen enough, and we are determined to make the political dialogue.

One way this might be done is through the "action plan" governing Israel's participation in the Wider Europe agenda that is to be drawn up by the end of 2004. The ultimate goal of Wider Europe is to allow free access to and from the EU of goods, services, capital, and people from the countries involved.

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