Speech by EJC President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the Meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moscow

Dear Minister Lavrov!

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

Before discussing some proposals, I would like to thank you and, in your person, the leadership of Russia for supporting the initiatives and projects of the European Jewish Congress over the years.

We would like to thank you again for helping arrange the first exhibition of avant-garde art in Geneva Palace of Nations last summer.

Briefly about the Congress. For twenty-five years, since its foundation, the European Jewish Congress has been pursuing classical tasks of a central political Jewish association in Europe, uniting 42 national organizations and 3 million Jews. These include:

– fighting anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia and extremism;

– counteracting assimilation and strengthening national consciousness;

– designing and implementing pan-European tolerance and reconciliation programs;

– supporting educational projects aimed at preserving the holocaust memory;

– counteracting universal threats, in particular the threat of nuclear catastrophe;

– supporting the state of Israel and many other tasks.

A few words about our proposals.

1. Threat of nuclear catastrophe. Iran

We are living in the age of crises evolving in different directions. They include the crisis of parliamentary democracy, the economic crisis that is the focus of broad public discussion; ecological and demographic crises; crisis related to the new phenomenon of the international terrorism; crisis of meaningful human existence when a lot of primarily young people on the globe fail to find what to do.

But there is one crisis to which I would like to draw special attention. It is the crisis of nuclear proliferation outside the framework of any relevant treaties. The nuclear crisis is the only type of crisis that would have irreversible consequences.

Why does this happen? Mankind is mired in banalized threats. What does the total banalization of threats mean? It is when 99 percent of people care more about the scores of English premier league soccer matches than, say, about the fact that it may take Iran from 300 to 500 days to acquire nuclear weapons.

Another reason of no less importance is trivialized thinking in business and economics. In fact, the principles of Napoleon are wedded to the principles of Schopenhauer, and big business is fueled by a burning craving for profit, while the mind in this case merely does the bidding of blind will.

We often hear, “Money is the main thing, and the final aim of any activity is to get as much of it as possible.” The mind is thus being monetized.

Under the circumstances, faced with the real threat of nuclear catastrophe, the key players as represented by the us, the European Union, Russia, India, China and Israel, should stop treating each other with distrust.

The crisis of the nonproliferation system brought about by the Iranian leaders calls for establishing a “quick response system”.

It could be based on an operational quick response headquarters with executive functions that would be supervised directly by the U.S. and Russian presidents and would have the authority to take emergency measures to counter the proliferation of nuclear materials, critical technologies and nuclear weapons. The headquarters should have a special subdivision to counter nuclear terrorism.

To avoid catastrophe, the U.S. and Russia need to achieve acceptable compromise on the main issues that still cause substation differences.

The unity of the great powers and permanent UN Security Council members on the Iranian problem and their resolve, case of need, to apply sanctions under articles 41 и 42 of the un charter is the lever that could force Tehran to revise its nuclear policy.

The EJC is grateful to the Russian Federation leaders for their firm stand on the Iranian issue.

We also ask that Iran be not supplied with the С-300 ground-to-air missile systems. This multi-purpose air defense missile system is one of the most sophisticated systems in the world today, and its possible supply to Iran will undoubtedly give it an edge in the military sphere and detract from the results of peace talks.

Russia holds the key to preventing nuclear catastrophe and certainly has a decisive role to play in ensuring global and regional security.

2. Tolerance

Clearly, the spread of the ideas of tolerance and protection of human rights and freedoms is a major condition for ensuring security.

Today politicians and civil society in Europe, America and Russia face the task of stepping up and consolidating efforts in every country and on the international level.

The UN has proclaimed 2009 the year of mutual respect. This is a good chance for the international community to finally define the limits of tolerance on the part of progressive democratic states and civil society to manifestations of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and extremism.

The stand on these issues could be formalized in a G8 declaration and subsequently endorsed by a respective UN resolution.

Similar to the proposed operational nonproliferation headquarters, it is advisable to set up with EU, U.S. and Russian participation a center-headquarters to counter humanitarian threats.

Such a center could pave the way for advancing in society the principles of secure tolerance as a continuous program of practical actions.

The program should include law-making, actions by national and supranational executive authorities, educational and informational efforts, science, migration policies, international cooperation, promotion of the social sphere and civil society, and, of course, cultural projects.

Establishment of a pan-European secure tolerance university with Russia’s participation in the heart of Europe could provide a research and humanitarian platform for new policy of international security.

A synthesis of the notions of security and tolerance is the order of the day.

3. Third International Holocaust Forum

In cooperation with many partners, primarily the European Parliament and its President, the EJC is organizing a forum to mark the International Holocaust day on January 27th 2010 and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the Red Army.

I would like to stress that this forum fundamentally differs from the First Forum held in Krakow in 2005, which was basically the Forum of a joint political will of more than 30 Presidents of European states, including the Russian President.

This forum welcomes both politicians and European parliamentarians, to encourage law-making efforts in this area.

We are grateful to the Russian Federation Foreign Ministry and you personally for the support given to every our undertaking.

4. Day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the Red Army

On the occasion of the Holocaust day we have a special proposal for Russia that we would ask you to support.

Taking into account the main role played by Russia in defeating Nazism we suggest, in order to respect historical justice and prevent any revision of the lessons of history, that January 27 be proclaimed the official day of liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp by the Red Army under precisely this name.

5. Human rights and anti-Semitism in Europe

Anti-Semitism continues to be a grave problem in Europe, as evidenced by reports of leading expert institutions, in particular, the Stephen Roth Institute and the EU fundamental rights agency.

The European Jewish Congress is concerned with such developments in Western, Central and Eastern Europe and in the EU and Council of Europe countries. In this context we deplore the UN Human Rights Council, which recently issued the Goldstone report.

We are thankful to the Russian Federation and also to the leadership of most of the EU countries and the U.S., who denounced this report. At the same time we believe that the UN Human Rights Council has neglected its original mandate and caused some sort of European gap, in the place of which a new organization, a pan-European Agency for Human Rights, should be established. We would like to ask for the Russian Federation’s support in this matter.

6. Russian Bureau of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation

Finally, we are co-founders of a very representative European civil society body, the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, which brings together leading European politicians of undisputable authority, among them former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Russian ex-Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

We would ask you to support the establishment of our Council’s Russian Bureau.

I make a point of it, this is not a Jewish agency, but an institution of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional dialogue, one that strictly fits into the pan-European format.

The bureau’s activities can become a graphic illustration of the emergence of full-fledged civil society in the Russian Federation, a society that is open to cooperation and joint actions with foreign institutions and to fruitful dialogue between society and government.

We thank you again for this opportunity to discuss with you the most pressing issues that face the European community today!