EJC President Meets with Polish Leadership

The delegation of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) held a number of meetings with Polish leaders. The discussions focused on promoting tolerance, fighting anti-Semitism, as well as nuclear non-proliferation, Polish-Israel and EU-Israel relations.

WARSAW, July 8, 2009 – On Tuesday, July 7, 2009, the EJC delegation led by Moshe Kantor, EJC President and Co-Chair of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), and Aleksander Kwaśniewski, ECTR Chair, held meetings with Polish President Lech Kaczyński and Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski as well as with members of the local Jewish community in Warsaw.

Following the visit, a press conference was held at which Kantor discussed the outcomes of the meetings and spoke of a number of other issues that the European society faces today and that greatly affect the development of European Jewry.

According to Kantor, talks with the President of Poland were held in a friendly atmosphere and were devoted to a wide range of topics, including Polish-Israel and EU-Israel relations, joint fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism across Europe, initiatives fostering tolerance in Europe, Holocaust education and commemoration events.

Kantor believes that “many issues that affect Jewish communities are of equal importance to general society both in Poland and throughout Europe: fighting xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, educating the next generation about the Holocaust, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and fostering tolerance throughout Europe.”

At the press conference, EJC President also touched upon the issue of restitution of the Jewish property confiscated during WWII. Kantor said that “recognising the importance of the issue of restitution, President Kaczyński agreed to hold another meeting of a more practical nature on the issue in November.”

“We expect the EU to establish strong moral foundations of individual rights. This issue of individual claims of Holocaust era assets is still an unresolved issue in several European countries, with Poland being one of the most significant,” Kantor added.

Speaking of the importance of the Holocaust commemoration, EJC President and ECTR Co-Chair proposed to hold a special commemorative event on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz which may become a joint event of the UN, the European Jewish Congress and the Polish Government. “This idea has both educational merit and moral value, particularly in light of the rise of the right wing parties in the European Parliament,” he noted.

According to Kantor, “the two ideas were endorsed by both the Polish President and the Foreign Minister, and we look forward to working with them on realising this vision.”

EJC President also touched upon the issue of the Iranian nuclear programme. He noted that “Iran is not a Middle Eastern problem. It rather poses a global threat, via its global terror arms, which jeopardise world stability.”

“There was complete understanding between the Polish President and the EJC delegation about the dangerous crossroads the world is facing and the need for a strong, decisive and united approach by the international community led by the EU, the US and Russia,” said Kantor.

The issues discussed during the negotiations are of great importance to the current development of Russia. Amid economic crisis, it is urgent to continue fostering tolerance and reconciliation. As a rule, xenophobia, so typical for the time of economic recession, leads to even greater aggravation of the problems that appear. Social instability increases the risks of lingering political and economic crisis phenomena.

Public tolerance and readiness to cooperate on the international and interreligious levels is an obligatory prerequisite for proper development of a modern democratic state with a free market economy.

In this light, Kantor emphasised that today it is vital to take measures to “confront the shortage of historical memory, particularly in such difficult times of the world economic crisis and the continued rise of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism.”