EU pledges €30m to protect mosques and synagogues

Tensions surrounding Israel-Hamas war has provoked rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe

EU pledges €30m to protect mosques and synagogues
Police outside the Tournelles Synagogue in Paris in October. The European Commission is to increase security outside places of worship. Photograph: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP/Getty

The European Commission has promised a €30m (£26m) fund to increase security at mosques and synagogues across the continent as it condemned a recent rise in levels of antisemitism and Islamophobia as “un-European”.

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EU pledges €30m to protect mosques and synagogues amid hate crime rise 12

Saying that tensions surrounding the Israel-Hamas war had provoked hostility “reminiscent of the darkest days of Europe’s history”, the commission called on social media companies to do more to remove hateful content.

Announcing the new fund, which will mostly be used to step up security around public spaces, community centres and places of worship such as synagogues and mosques, Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president of the commission, said no European should tolerate fellow citizens feeling unsafe.

He said: “If you visit a mosque or a synagogue in any European city, most likely you will see that there is a security perimeter. And this is the most un-European state, this is not part of our Europe. Europe should not look like this.

“I will personally never accept that Europe is a place where any religious community feels unsafe. And nor should any European accept that,” he added, as he launched the Europe against Hate campaign alongside Vera Jourová, the commission vice-president for values and transparency.

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The commissioners said there had been a “spectacular” rise in antisemitic incidents in Europe, with an 800% increase reported in the Netherlands. In France the number of incidents recorded between 7 October and 15 November was 1,518, compared with 436 for the whole of 2023.

There had also been a sharp rise in Islamophobia, which Jourová said was similar to a “spike of hatred” towards Muslim communities after the 2015 refugee crisis. Last month the French Muslim Council said it had received 42 letters containing threats or insults in October alone. Mosques had also been targeted, with 17 receiving threatening letters and 14 vandalised, it said.

Jourová said: “We have to combat anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of hatred and racism.”

EU pledges €30m to protect mosques and synagogues amid hate crime rise 14

She demanded that social media companies face up to their obligations under the new Digital Services Act, which requires them, for the first time, to be the ones to enforce hate speech and counterterror legislation across the EU.

Jourová singled out Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter, and TikTok as companies that must do more to remove hate speech from their platforms.

She said: “Much has to be done in the case of X and in the case of TikTok because this is what the Jewish communities are telling me they are really worried about, about these two platforms, and especially TikTok, as a problem because they are having an enormous influence on [how] the young generation thinks.”

The commission said it would push for stronger rules to counter illegal hate speech online under a code of conduct signed with online platforms, to be finalised in the next three months, in addition to the stricter regulation for large online platforms that has been introduced earlier this year in the Digital Services Act.

It is also supporting training for journalists on upholding media standards and recognising hate speech, while increasing support for factcheckers within the EU and the Arab-speaking world.

EU pledges €30m to protect mosques and synagogues.

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