Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström’s speech on Raoul Wallenberg Day

Stockholm, 27 August 2017.

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Friends,

It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome you to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for this year's Raoul Wallenberg Commemorative Lecture on modern forms of anti-Semitism by historian Dr Henrik Bachner.

This theme is unfortunately all too relevant these days as well. We have recently seen appalling pictures of Nazi groups, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Nordic Resistance Movement was on site during Almedalen Week. On 1 May, Nazi demonstrators also paraded through Falun. Henrik's lecture will shed light on some of the worrying anti-Semitic trends of our time and offer insights into how we can combat anti-Semitism.

The unconditional condemnation of anti-Semitism – and all forms of racism and religious oppression – is a democratic obligation. The Swedish Government is very concerned about these developments, both at home and around the world, and our role in combating these manifestations is unwavering.

This day also offers an important opportunity to stop for a moment and remember Raoul Wallenberg and his actions. With a major dose of courage, cunning, commitment and calm, he succeeded in saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust by issuing them with protective passports. It is essential that we never forget such moral courage, and it is equally important that we draw inspiration from it in the world we live in today. I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to this and last year's winner of the Raoul Wallenberg Award.

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We are witnessing increasing intolerance and hate in Sweden, Europe and around the world – on the internet, in our streets and around religious institutions.

This intolerance and hate is often directed at minority groups such as Jews, but it is also a threat to us all and to our democracy – a democracy that we in Europe have fought hard for.

The Swedish Government believes that civil society is absolutely necessary and important in combating anti-Semitism and and all forms of racism, hate and intolerance. Sweden is a pluralistic and democratic country, and the Government is completely determined and engaged in its efforts to protect these basic values in our society and culture.

Jewish life is part of Swedish life, and Jewish culture is an important thread in our Swedish cultural and social tapestry.

Everyone who lives in Sweden must be able to live an equal, secure and dignified life – without fear or threats when practising their peaceful religion. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right.

The Government has taken a range of measures to protect Jewish life in Sweden – focusing in particular on education, critical media awareness, and knowledge about history and the Holocaust.

To ensure that everyone in our country knows about Nazi crimes against humanity, the Government will reintroduce grants to enable school pupils to make remembrance trips to Auschwitz.

And in 2020 – 20 years after the important Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust – Sweden will arrange a new conference of remembrance and education.

Efforts to strengthen democracy, support civil society and improve security around religious institutions are other cornerstones in our efforts in this national endeavour.

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But anti-Semitism is not a local phenomenon – it is a global problem. For centuries, Jews have been the target of unfair accusations, persecution, hate and violence – not limited to any particular national or regional context – rather merely because they were Jews.

Anti-Semitism has deep historical roots and has taken many forms, often having both local and transnational characteristics. The arrival of the internet has seen the emergence of borderless environments fostering hate, in which long-standing conspiracy theories about Jews have been revived and given new outlets.

The battle against anti-Semitism online is a comprehensive challenge facing open and democratic societies. Countries must cooperate with the media industry, civil society and experts.

The 'EU Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online' is an important step, but much remains to be done to monitor, report on and enforce accountability.

Continued international cooperation is essential. The EU, the United Nations and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance are important partners that Sweden continues to actively cooperate with, and bilateral consultations with countries such as Israel, the United States and European countries continue to be a priority.

Anti-Semitism must also been seen in its broader context of hate, intolerance, war and terrorism – both online and offline.

We see how anti-Semitism flourishes in the same environments as violent extremism – environments where democratic values are replaced by violence.

The ongoing wars across the globe, the horrors of terrorism – at close quarters and at a distance – underscore with all their clarity the importance of continuing to address the root causes of intolerance, hate, violence and armed conflict.

Through international cooperation in the EU and the UN, through education, legislation, policing and security-enhancing measures, we must continue long-term confidence-building and conflict resolution, and continue to work for a global culture based on respect and dialogue – not least between religions – and upholding human rights in all contexts.

It is obvious that no country can achieve this on its own, and it is clear that national governments must collaborate with civil society.

An active, democratic civil society, education, dialogue and collaboration are undoubtedly key to a more peaceful and more tolerant world.

I would like to thank you for coming here today, and to thank Henrik, who will speak on anti-Semitism. Greater knowledge is an important step in the fight against anti-Semitism.

 

Contact

Pezhman Fivrin
Press Secretary to Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström
Mobile +46 (0) 72 526 68 18
email to Pezhman Fivrin