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EU Condemns Racism, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Foreigner Violence - 2002-04-25


European Union justice and interior ministers have issued Thursday a statement condemning racist, anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner violence. The move came at an EU meeting in Luxembourg.

The statement was based on a declaration issued earlier this month by France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium in response to violence against synagogues across Europe.

In the statement, the EU ministers said it is vital to preserve the spirit of harmony and inter-cultural respect within societies at a time of acute international tension.

Since late March, when Israel launched a military campaign in the Palestinian territories, there has been a sharp rise in attacks against Jewish places of worship, cemeteries and shops throughout Europe.

The European Union is currently negotiating proposals aimed at ensuring that racist and xenophobic crimes - ranging from spreading hate literature to murder - are prosecuted and punished in the same way across the bloc.

The statement comes just days after far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen qualified for the second round of France's presidential election. Diplomats said the idea of an EU statement had been discussed before the French balloting and was prepared in response to a request by France.

In the statement, the ministers asked the European Commission to draw up measures to combat discrimination.

Meanwhile, for the first time, the European Union has begun considering a proposal that would establish minimum standards, throughout the union, for asylum seekers. The draft law addresses basic needs such as housing, medical care, education and jobs.

The move is intended to end so-called asylum shopping, where certain EU countries are flooded with immigrants because they are perceived as being more generous to immigrants. The European Parliament must still review the measure, which was approved by the ministers in Luxembourg.

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