Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conference on Anti-Semitism

Austrian Press Agency (APA) (06/09/2005)

Austria for More Efforts Made Towards Education

Head of Delegation Hans Winkler: Politicians should serve as models

Cordoba/Madrid - At the international anti-Semitism Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Cordoba, Spain, Austria emphasized the need for greater efforts to be made in school education when fighting xenophobia and intolerance. "Education of our youth plays a large role in the struggle against anti-Semitic prejudice and xenophobia," explained Austrian Head of Delegation and Deputy Secretary General for Foreign Affairs, Hans Winkler, while speaking to the press.

Because of the positive experience Austria has had with its so-called programs of "educating for tolerance" in Austrian schools, Winkler added that Austria wished to speak about it at the OSCE conference. There are many reasons for xenophobia and intolerance, some revolving around anti-Semitism, the Middle East conflict or international terrorism which one cannot easily resolve. "We can only try to improve upon the situation and we do that by educating our youth in matters of tolerance," commented Winkler. He demanded also from the politicians that they play a stronger role in promoting tolerance - through their actions and in their speeches - thereby serving as models for people to emanate.

However, through the excellent initiatives in youth education directed toward more tolerance, one has already achieved a "model character," which is one of the reasons that Austria has relatively few problems with xenophobia and anti-Semitism. The integration of the Moslem community in Austria is, therefore, functioning very well. With such an approach, extremists among Moslem immigrants don’t have reason to develop. Also, conflicts such as the debate over headscarves in Germany and France fail to arise.

One proof of this is documented in the survey of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) presented at the OSCE conference, in which Austria was shown to have a decline in anti-Semitic prejudice. Also, in answer to the question whether Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country, thirty-eight percent of those asked in 2005 said yes, whereas in 2004, it was still forty-six percent. Also, as to the opinion that Jews spoke too much about the Holocaust in comparison to the previous year, the percentage fell from fifty-four to forty-six.

The survey, which has been conducted throughout twelve countries, concluded that even in 2005 the percentage rate of interviewees expressing anti-Semitic clichés, was still considerable. Hans Winkler is of the opinion that the number is "significant" enough to act as an incentive to fight harder against xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance. The criticism of the OSCE that only about one-half of the fifty-five member states has honored its commitment in the fight again anti-Semitism and xenophobia is a matter which doesn’t include Austria. At the previous anti-Semitism conferences of the OSCE in Vienna and Berlin, all of the member states promised to register cases of xenophobia and intolerance to the OSCE in order to establish a system of control and information. Until now, only twenty-nine member states have forwarded that information onto the OSCE. "We have sent out data. However, we must still improve upon our statistics particularly in cases of crime having a background linked to racism," said Winkler.

According to the Head of Delegation, working together with politicians and experts from more than forty countries has shown that the OSCE can play a central role in fighting anti-Semitism and intolerance. Winkler emphasized that "anti-Semitism and intolerance" was one of the more important topics at the conference. "It is critical to avoid the gradual establishment of a hierarchy of discrimination," said Winkler. The Spanish hosts actually wanted to make anti-Semitism an exclusive topic at the OSCE conference.