Stunning religious practice in Europe

December 28, 2020

If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, dealt a serious blow to ritual Jewish and Muslim methods of animal slaughter. The court upheld a Belgian law that requires that animals must be stunned before they are killed. Neither Jewish nor Muslim law allows for stunning in the slaughter process.
Proponents of the CJEU ruling and supporters of the Belgian law assert that the stun-first approach is more humane. Critics argue that properly executed slaughter is less painful and less traumatic for the animals. Either way, the ruling is a serious setback for religious freedom in Europe. And it isn’t clear whether the ruling would also prohibit the importation of slaughtered meat that has not observed the stun-first requirement.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, urged reconsideration. “Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, then the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed,” he said.
According to the CJEU, its ruling actually protects religious practices and doesn’t prohibit any religious observance. It argued that the ruling permitted religious practices since it “allow[s] a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”
That superficial analysis by the CJEU is remarkably naive and misinformed, since it improperly assumes that religious slaughter can be performed on a stunned animal. It cannot. And, besides, Jews and Muslims don’t want to “manifest” their religion — they want the freedom to practice their religions.
Two distinct elements in European society are promoting the ban on ritual slaughter. Opponents on the left are concerned about animal welfare, and see ritual slaughter as inhumane. Opponents on the far right are ultranationalists, who see Jewish and Muslim practices as alien imports to Christian Europe. Strange bedfellows, indeed. But through their issue alliance, opposition to ritual slaughter has taken on a life of its own, without regard to the sensibilities of Jews and Muslims.
According to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, had Belgium’s parliament “engaged properly with Jewish community officials before banning the practice, some satisfactory solutions could have been found, as has been the case in the Netherlands and elsewhere, because the method of slaughter is not crueler or [more] painful to animals than other methods.” But no such effort was made.
Not every Jew in Europe eats kosher meat. But the availability of kosher food is one of the markers of a thriving Jewish life. In a pluralistic society, every effort must be made to enable such religious observances. If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
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Four appear in court over alleged antisemitism shouted from convoy

Four men have appeared in court charged with shouting antisemitic abuse from a convoy of cars in north London earlier this year.
Mohammed Iftikhar Hanif, 27; Jawaad Hussain, 24; Asif Ali, 25; and Adil Mota, 26, were seen covering their faces as they arrived and left Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
They are charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words, or behaviour with intent likely to stir up racial hatred.
All four men from Blackburn entered not guilty pleas, with Mr Mota’s lawyer telling the court that his client was travelling as part of the convoy but wasn’t involved in the incident.
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Statement on COVID-19 economic policy response

Following up on the videoconference on 10 March 2020 between European Council Members, as well as the ECB President, the Eurogroup President and the High Representative, the Eurogroup held an in-depth discussion today, together with non-Euro Area Members, on how to respond to the extraordinary human and economic crisis caused by the Corona virus.
The Eurogroup expressed its sympathy and solidarity with the citizens and the Member States particularly hit by this crisis and its gratitude to those risking their own health to save lives. The Eurogroup is following the situation very closely and is in permanent contact and coordinated to give a strong economic policy response to the exceptional situation. Our commitments of today reflect our strong determination to do whatever it takes to effectively address the current challenges and to restore confidence and support a rapid recovery.
Today, we welcomed all the measures taken by Member States and by the European Commission, in particular those taken to ensure that health systems and civil protection systems are adequately provided for to contain and treat the disease, preserve the wellbeing of our citizens and help firms and workers that are particularly affected.
Facing these exceptional circumstances, we agreed that an immediate, ambitious and co-ordinated policy response is needed. We have decided to act and will respond swiftly and flexibly to developments as they unfold. We will make use of all instruments necessary to limit the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have therefore put together a first set of national and European measures while setting a framework for further actions to respond to developments and to support the economic recovery. Preliminary estimates of the European Commission show that total fiscal support to the economy will be very sizeable. We have, so far, decided fiscal measures of about 1% of GDP, on average, for 2020 to support the economy, in addition to the impact of automatic stabilisers, which should work fully. We have, so far, committed to provide liquidity facilities of at least 10% of GDP, consisting of public guarantee schemes and deferred tax payments. These figures could be much larger going forward.
The following measures are part of our co-ordinated responses to protect our economies.
1. All national authorities will allow automatic stabilisers to function and in addition implement all necessary measures to ensure that the economic consequences of COVID-19 are tackled and that they do not put in danger our economic and social achievements. To the extent required by the evolving situation in each country, they will implement temporary measures such as:

    • Immediate fiscal spending targeted at containment and treatment of the disease. Adequate resources will be provided to our health sectors and civil protection systems;
    • Liquidity support for firms facing severe disruption and liquidity shortages, especially SMEs and firms in severely affected sectors and regions, including transport and tourism – this can include tax measures, public guarantees to help companies to borrow, export guarantees and waiving of delay penalties in public procurement contracts;
    • Support for affected workers to avoid employment and income losses, including short-term work support, extension of sick pay and unemployment benefits and deferral of income tax payments.

2. Coordinated efforts at the European level will supplement national measures:

    • We welcome the Commission’s proposal for a €37 billion “Corona Response Investment Initiative” directed at health care systems, SMEs, labour markets and other vulnerable parts of our economies, and to make a further €28 billion of structural funds fully eligible for meeting these expenditures. We agreed on the need to implement the necessary legislative changes as quickly as possible;
    • We welcome the initiative of the Commission and the EIB Group to mobilise up to €8 billion of working capital lending for 100,000 European firms, backed by the EU budget, by enhancing programmes for guaranteeing bank credits to SMEs. We also support the ongoing efforts of the Commission and the EIB Group to increase this amount to up to €20 billion, which would reach a further 150,000 firms. We also welcome the ongoing work to make further funds available as swiftly as possible and to enhance the flexibility of the financial instruments leveraged;
    • We welcome the initiative of the EIB Group to catalyse €10 billion in additional investments in SMEs and midcaps for their own account and to accelerate the deployment of another €10 billion backed by the EU budget;
    • We invite the EIB to further enhance and accelerate the impact of the available resources, including through enhanced collaboration with the National Development Banks;
    • We also welcomed the package of monetary policy measures taken by the ECB last week aimed at supporting liquidity and funding conditions for households, businesses and banks, help the smooth provision of credit to the real economy, and avoid fragmentation of euro area financial markets in order to preserve the smooth transmission of monetary policy.

3. Beyond the immediate, targeted response, we are working on all the necessary measures, to help the economy recover once the coronavirus has receded. We acknowledge the need to reflect on the resilience of our European strategic value chains to better protect Europe from product and capital market disruptions in the future. We have already significantly strengthened our crisis management framework, including with the establishment of the ESM. Today we recommit to continue our work to further strengthen the architecture and resilience to shocks of the Economic and Monetary Union.
Our shared rules will support this response. In particular, we discussed the application of the SGP, state aid rules and prudential rules:

  • The economic shock of the coronavirus, with an economic contraction now expected this year, together with the cost of our agreed measures, will have a substantial budgetary impact. The SGP has the flexibility needed to cater for this situation and we will make full use of this flexibility in all member states.
  • Automatic stabilisers will fully play their role. This means that automatic revenue shortfalls and unemployment benefit increases resulting from the drop in economic activity will not affect compliance with the applicable fiscal rules, targets and requirements. In addition, we agreed that the budgetary effects of temporary fiscal measures taken in response to COVID-19 will be excluded when assessing compliance with the EU fiscal rules, targets and requirements. This includes the budgetary impact of temporary and targeted measures, such as those urgently needed to contain and treat the pandemic, ensure liquidity support to firms and sectors, and protect jobs and incomes of affected workers. The flexibility to cater for unusual events outside the control of government is applicable to the current situation. We welcome the readiness of the Commission to activate the general escape clause, allowing for further discretionary stimulus, while preserving medium-term sustainability.
  • We welcomed the Commission guidance on the scope for supporting firms that is available within state aid rules in the current circumstances, together with the Commission announcement that it has accelerated its state aid approval processes. The Commission has announced it will approve additional measures needed to remedy this serious disturbance in the economy, which is already the case for Italy and increasingly across the EU. Taking urgent action and making full use of the flexibility foreseen in the state aid rules is necessary to cushion the effect of the crisis for those companies and sectors which are affected, whilst ensuring a consistent framework and a level playing field in the single market. The Commission stands ready to issue a specific framework shortly.
  • The banking system has a key role in preventing this health emergency from turning into a social and economic crisis for businesses and households. We therefore welcomed the statement by the European Banking Authority that competent authorities should make full use, where appropriate, of the flexibility embedded in existing regulation to support the banking sector in view of the current exceptional circumstances.
  • In particular, we also welcomed the decisions taken by ECB Banking Supervision providing temporary capital and operational relief to euro area banks, with a view to ensuring that supervised banks can continue to fulfil their role in funding the real economy as the economic effects of the coronavirus become apparent. Such flexibility is needed to avoid, as much as possible, pro-cyclical, unintended consequences for the financial sector.

We will take whatever further coordinated and decisive policy action is necessary, including fiscal measures, to support growth and employment.

Greetings for the Upcoming Rosh HaShanah by President of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, H.E. Mr. Gitanas Nausėda

https://www.facebook.com/ejassociation/videos/547439039345968/

President of Ireland Blessings for Rosh HaShanah

The EJA warmly thanks H.E. Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, for His Excellency’s kind wishes to the European Jewry in light of the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah

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