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Distinguished participants in the Civil Society Forum,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you this evening and to share some of my views with you. I would like to thank Ambassador Guldimann for being our host tonight here at the Swiss Embassy in Berlin.
Let me begin by making some personal remarks: commemorating the Holocaust and fighting against anti‑Semitism and all forms of stigmatisation and discrimination have been very close to my heart for many years. Some of you might know that I am a member of the board of trustees of the “Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”. Since I took office as German Minister of State for Europe in December 2013, I have been in contact with many representatives of Jewish communities whenever I travel across Europe – be it in Thessaloniki, in Vienna or in Budapest. My Ministry has initiated a number of projects to strengthen Jewish life all over Europe. Our message is clear: Jewish life has its place at the heart of our societies.
This year we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Declaration, which was a milestone in the fight against anti‑Semitism. I am very pleased that, ten years after the Berlin Conference in 2004, the Federal Foreign Office is once again host and partner of this event. Now it is time to take stock of how far we have come and face the current and future challenges.
Recently we have witnessed a new wave of anti-Semitism all over Europe, including Germany. Scenes we thought Europe would never see again have become reality. I am deeply concerned about these developments. Let me be clear: anti‑Semitism is a threat not only to Jewish communities, but to all citizens and the state itself. Anti‑Semitism, be it open or veiled, is poison for any democratic society. There is no justification for it, neither in Germany nor in any other place in the world. In 2014, no one should live in fear because of his or her ethnicity, faith or sexual identity.
Safeguarding the values of the European Union is crucial – perhaps more than ever. Europe must pursue a zero tolerance policy on anti-Semitism and the discrimination of minorities. This is also a question of credibility if the European Union wants to be regarded as a community of values. When raising our voices to protect minorities in other parts of the world it is essential that we set a good example by living up to our ideals at home.
That is why we must stand united against anti‑Semitism. We have to take decisive measures, ranging from research and analysis to educational programmes and improved integration work.
Let me be clear: politicians and governments alone will not be able to fight anti‑Semitism. It affects us all – and not only governments. Each and every one of us can help fight anti-Semitism and unmask prejudices against Jewish people.
And this is why it is so important that this conference is open to participants from civil society. As representatives of non‑governmental organisations, you are making an important contribution to fighting anti‑Semitism. On behalf of the Federal Government, I can reassure you that we greatly appreciate your work in this fight and we are ready to cooperate with you wherever possible.
Some of you have travelled a great distance to be here today and to play an active part in the discussions on the implementation of the Berlin Declaration. I am delighted that we have the opportunity to meet and exchange views tonight. I am convinced that the contacts you make here and the discussions you start at this event will be continued in a different setting. I hope that these talks will have practical and positive consequences for the fight against anti‑Semitism.
Your active participation in this OSCE Conference on anti‑Semitism will shape the political discourse and public opinion on this important topic. You can have a great impact as members of your countries’ civil society. Your commitment and your joint action promote a tolerant, open and democratic society. I am grateful that many Jewish people not only raise their voices against anti‑Semitism, but also against every form of discrimination of minorities. That is why you are an indispensable counterweight to injustices and an important catalyst for change.
I would like to thank you for your courage and your commitment and wish you all the best for tomorrow’s high‑level event. Thank you!