ECCAR Statement 46th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

Heidelberg – Germany

Our ECCAR Director Evein Obulor, intervended on behalf of ECCAR Vice President Danijel Cubelic (City of Heidelberg) at the 46th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on the topic "Local and regional authorities in Europe in the face of rising antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred". You can read the full statement below.

"Dear President, Excellencies, dear Elected Officials, dear Mayors and City Councilors, dear Members of the Congress,

I stand before you today as the Director of the European Coalition of Cities against Racism (ECCAR) on behalf of our Vice President Danijel Cubelic, honored to address the pressing issues of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred that have permeated our communities, our cities all across Europe. I am heartened to see these crucial issues at the forefront of our discussions in your agenda today. Antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism are not just items on our agenda; they are urgent challenges, realities faced by many citizens in Europe, including the inhabitants of over 150 cities and regions in our coalition, which we support through different measures.

Today, along with the continuous fight against extremist right-wing politics antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism are instrumentalized to fuel hate and violence in Europe in the context of global or regional issues. The numbers of reported incidents to civil society organisations that monitor both antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism have skyrocketed since October 7 th . Despite of global politics, each local socio-political context shapes the manifestations of antidemocractic ideologies and the way in which they impact the inter-communal dynamics. We have just heard the insights provided by Kaya COMER-SCHWARTZ on what is happening in the UK.

Recent studies from organizations such as RIAS reveal a 320% increase in reported antisemitic incidents in Germany alone, mirroring similar trends observed in other European countries. These incidents include verbal abuse, physical assaults, and vandalism targeting Jewish individuals and institutions. For example, in the city of Heidelberg, individuals wearing Jewish symbols have been attacked or spat at in supermarkets or in the bus, reflecting the disturbing rise in antisemitic incidents that infiltrate even the most mundane aspects of daily life. Jewish people all over Europe are considering leaving the continent.

The statistics from CLAIM further emphasize the intersectional nature of hate speech and discrimination, with an alarming number of incidents directed at Muslims and individuals perceived as such based on racialized markers of otherness. In Germany alone, CLAIM has documented an average of three anti-Muslim incidents per day, including threats, violence, and discrimination. These incidents range from attacks on mosques to verbal assaults on individuals. In Stockholm for example, the central mosque was vandalized with graffiti including a swastika sign and the message “kill Muslims”.

The need for decisive action at the local and regional levels has never been more apparent. It is imperative that cities adopt clear, structured approaches throughout all areas of municipal administration to address these issues effectively. That’s why an increasing number of cities and regions are opting for structured action plans to measure progress. This approach is vital because democracy and societal cohesion as a whole are at stake. Local action plans serve as crucial instruments for grounding this work structurally as a cross-sectional task. Our 10 Point Plan of Action for example provides a roadmap for cities to implement concrete cross-departmental measures against racism, antisemitism, and discrimination. From supporting victims to promoting intercultural dialogue, our plan underscores the significance of collaboration between local governments, communities, NGOs, and other stakeholders.

Together with our partners from CEJI “A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe” we mapped different activities of our member cities in the field of combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life and can underscore the importance of institutionalizing efforts to combat antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism, including evaluation mechanisms and training for city employees. We need to strengthen the capacity building of European local governments to find effective ways of creating sustainable cooperations with the local Jewish and Muslim communities.

However, effective action requires more than just policies; it demands trust, understanding, and cooperation. Rabbi Moshe David HaCohen, our partner from AMANAH, rightly emphasizes the need for cities and regions  to strengthen trust with vulnerable communities through tangible actions, such as security measures and partnerships focused on education and cultural events.

Additionally, the collection of equality data and antidiscrimination monitoring are essential. It is crucial for local authorities to have concrete knowledge of how antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism are affecting their citizens in various contexts. This understanding allows, on one hand, the development of local policy measures that are based on the lived realities of their city dwellers, and on the other hand, making these issues visible is key to strengthening trust in local and regional authorities.

In addition to addressing the alarming increase in incidents, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of creating safer spaces for trust building and alliances on a local level. Building trust between communities requires fostering environments where individuals feel safe to engage in dialogue and form alliances against hate. Local governments play a pivotal role in facilitating these spaces for dialogue by implementing policies that promote inclusivity, diversity, and mutual respect. By working collaboratively with civil society organizations, religious
institutions, and community leaders, cities can create environments where individuals from diverse backgrounds can come together to combat antisemitism, anti-Muslim racism, and all forms of discrimination. For ECCAR this collaborative approach is essential for building resilient communities that reject hatred and embrace diversity.

Embracing diversity in our cities and regions also entails celebrating contemporary Jewish and Muslim life as integral parts of our urban landscape. Cities, as both geographical and social units, serve as reference points for individual and group identities. Being seen, acknowledged, respected, and accepted within the urban environment is thus crucial for social integration and cohesion. For instance, this year, the city of Frankfurt made a noteworthy decision to illuminate Ramadan lights alongside Chanukkah and Christmas lights. This initiative not only enhances the visibility of contemporary Muslim and Jewish life but also utilizes the city as a collective space that embodies the rich religious and cultural heritage
of its inhabitants.

In conclusion, let us reaffirm our commitment to building inclusive and equitable communities where all individuals are treated with dignity and respect. By equipping cities and regions with the tools and resources necessary to address these challenges, we can foster social cohesion, resilience against hate and strengthen cooperation. Cooperation, that is based on trust, respect, and understanding of mutual goals in preserving communities in which city dwellers with different political opinions, religious lifes and ethnic backgrounds can live without a fear.Thank you."

For further information and to assess the agenda of the 46th session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities click here