The new European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), a non-governmental body launched Tuesday in Paris, has called on the European citizens to act against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
The Council, which is chaired by former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and comprises several former heads of European countries and Nobel Peace laureates, made recommendations and introduced initiatives that it is hoped will be used to create pan-European guidelines for combating tolerance, xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism..
The council laid out a vision whereby the average citizen of Europe would not be a bystander to intolerance, but rather work against acts of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
The first meeting set out the initiatives to advance concrete political, cultural and educational initiatives to instill a more tolerant Europe.
“With the experience of many distinguished politicians from various European countries, we believe that we can make a difference. We can’t change the past, our job is now to change the future,” Kwasniewski said.
He cautioned however that the fight for tolerance “is not a one-year or 10-year effort but will take decades and generations.”
“This will be a long-term project, one that we are dedicated to press with European and national decision-makers across the continent.”
“We are putting into the earth the first seeds of tolerance,” Moshe Kantor, co-chairman of the ECTR and president of the European Jewish Congress, stated at the inaugural meeting which took place at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale in Paris.
He added: “The dangers of intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia are just as pressing as the nuclear weaponization of countries like Iran and North Korea.”
“We will carry this fight to the streets of Europe. We want Europe’s politicians to work together to become the champions of tolerance. We demand action, not just words,” he told journalists.
The council will recommend a European Framework Convention on Tolerance to serve as a pan-European initiative to introduce anti-racist laws and practices to every nation accordingly.
“It is better if we do this together, as Europeans, rather than just as citizens of our own countries, or as Christians, Jews and Muslims, each one on their own,” members of the Council told the meeting.
The founding members of the new organization include former Slovenian President Milan Kucan, former Albanian president Alfred Moisiu and former Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, initiator of the International Forum on the Holocaust.
Among the initiatives discussed was the establishment of a “European Day of Tolerance” to work against ethnic, religious and cultural discrimination which will coincide with the 70th anniversary of “Kristallnacht” or Night of Broken Glass, on November 10, when the Nazis staged state sanctioned pogroms in which Jews were physically attacked and killed and Jewish institutions were destroyed in Germany and Austria.
A special event promoting tolerance will be held in the European Parliament in Brussels on the same day, under the auspices of the president of the European Parliament. It will be attended by political leaders from across Europe, MEPs, diplomats and other dignitaries.
The ECTR hopes this event will draw the attention of policy-makers to the issues of racism and xenophobia in Europe, while giving them the opportunity to formally present the statutes and to present concrete proposals to the EU parliament.
“Whoever says that Europe has learnt all the lessons of its darkest hours seventy years ago is ignoring what regularly happens on our streets today,” Moshe Kantor said.
The new body also decided to honour King Juan Carlos I of Spain with a ‘Medal of Tolerance’ for his lifetime achievement in fostering mutual respect.
On 16 November is the International Day of Tolerance which was established by the United Nations.