Opening remarks of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans at the First Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights
Brussels, 1 October 2015
In the past weeks, we have seen tremendous solidarity in some of our Member States. But we have also seen the dark side of society. We have seen the homes of asylum seekers set on fire. And we have heard political leaders declare that their countries would not accept refugees if they were Muslim.
Anti-Muslims incidents are multiplying across Europe. We’re seeing a huge spike of attacks. Verbal insinuations, closed-mindedness, prejudice, discrimination.
The rise of islamophobia is the one of the biggest challenges in Europe. It is a challenge to our vital values, to the core of who we are.
Never has our societies’ capacity for openness, for tolerance, for inclusion been more tested than it is today. Diversity is now in some parts of Europe seen as a threat. Diversity comes with challenges. But diversity is humanity’s destiny.
Commissioner Jourova and I have decided that we will designate, within the Commission, two coordinators with specific responsibility for following issues relating to one, antisemitism and the other,Islamophobia. So one coordinator responsible to be your contact point on issues relating to antisemitism, another coordinator responsible as your point of contact for issues related to Islamophobia. And these two persons within our services will have direct access to me. So whatever you say to them lands on my desk immediately. I want to be in direct control of this I will be your envoy if you want to call it that. I will have two people in my services whose task it will be one, to make sure that the issue of antisemitism is her or his main activity, and the other, Islamophobia, and that they report to me directly so I know what I need to do when there is an issue at hand.