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EU's Prodi  Receives Jewish  Human Rights Award - 2004-02-02

The president of the European Commission has received the first human-rights award granted by the Rabbinical Center of Europe, and says he has clarified recent misunderstandings with the Jewish community.

European Commission President Romano Prodi received a Humanitarian Achievement Award from the group of rabbis, presented in Vienna by the chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger.

The Rabbinical Center of Europe says the award recognizes Mr. Prodi's work in promoting cultural dialogue between Jewish communities, and other groups throughout Europe.

Mr. Prodi and the European Commission was recently criticized by some Jewish groups for an EU-sponsored poll that showed that Europeans considered Israel the greatest threat to world peace.

But Mr. Prodi told reporters he has cleared up the dispute.

"We work together because we want that things of the past never happen again and this is Europe. This is the message," he said. "Europe is a union of minorities which is all of us, being minorities."

Mr. Prodi attended a ceremony, with about 100 leading European rabbis, to open the first Jewish teachers' academy in Vienna since the Second World War.

The Nazis burned the pre-war Jewish academy to the ground in 1938, and sent thousands of Viennese Jews to concentration camps.

The new academy is part of a revival of Jewish culture in Central and Eastern Europe.

Hundreds of synagogues and schools have opened since the fall communism in 1989, and they need trained teachers.

Mr. Prodi said Vienna will be in the center of the new Europe after EU enlargement this year, and can play an important role in the continent's Jewish renaissance.