According to EU Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans, the European Union faces a “huge challenge” to reassure Jews about their future in Europe following the Paris attacks by radical Islamists. As the EU leadership debated new counter-terrorism steps on Wednesday (22 January), Mr Timmermans said that Brussels was determined to keep its core values of tolerance and inclusion, pledging a new strategy that should be ready by May this year. “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,” he said and commented that this problem is a major challenge to “the very foundation of European integration”. Brussels insists that it is a “fundamental value” that everyone, “whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or atheist”, has a place in the European society.
France, which is home to Europe’s largest Jewish community, estimated at about 600,000, is especially confronted with the fact that many of French Jews are considering leaving the country in response to mounting anti-Semitic sentiments. The attack on the Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket only sparked huge defiance and outpouring as the French Jewish community had already previously been a target for extremists. In May 2012, for example, three children and a teacher were killed in a horrendous attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse.
Although Mr Timmermans was not very specific about the EU’s new anti-terror strategy, he said that the EU Commission worked hard to meet the EU Parliament’s concerns regarding data protection including an air passenger tracking system. The Vice President said that it was very important for the Commission to come up with a proposal that would meet Parliament’s concerns and emphasized that Europe has to be seen as “taking its job seriously” in countering the Islamist menace. Brussels’ greatest fear is that European citizens, who go to fight with jihadists such as the Islamic State group in Syria or Iraq and later come back to home, are even more radicalized and ready to spread violence around Europe.