European Jewish parliament's general assembly in Brussels sets agenda on European Jewish issues
The European Jewish Parliament held its first General Assembly this week in Brussels. The capital of the European Union welcomed delegates and MEJPs from across Europe as they gathered for the first working session of this new pan-European body, which is designed to give a democratic voice to Jewish communities throughout the continent. Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria Antoniya Parvanova chaired the EJP General Assembly, which focused on agenda-setting for the year ahead. MEJPs highlighted the need to address a rising tide of political extremism within Europe, pointing to marked increases in antisemitic attitudes across the continent.
The European Jewish Parliament -- which is backed by Ukrainian Tycoon Ihor Kolomoiskiy's European Jewish Union -- was established last year to provide a democratic platform for the continent's diverse Jewish communities. The inaugural session of the parliament featured 120 MEJPs representing over 40 European nations. They were elected following an online ballot in late 2011 which attracted much media attention and saw the participation of over 400,000 voters.
The result is a diverse and democratic body featuring a cross-section of contemporary European Jewish society. Together they are charged with representing the interests of everyone from the half-million strong French Jewish contingent to the relatively tiny Jewish communities of the Balkans and the Baltic. While some existing Jewish community organisations have attacked the European Jewish Parliament initiative for presuming to speak for Europe's Jews, MEJPs themselves appeared energized by the scale of the challenge ahead.
The European Jewish Parliament's first General Assembly attracted considerable interest among the Brussels diplomatic and political communities, with attendees including Minister President of Flanders Kris Peeters and Bahraini Ambassador to the United States Hoodah Nunu - one of the few Jewish women in diplomatic history to have risen to the rank of ambassador in a Muslim majority nation.
The continued support of Europe's political and diplomatic communities will likely prove crucial as the European Jewish Parliament seeks to define a role for itself in the continental debate. For the time being, the current crop of MEJPs is faced with the challenge of living up to their billing as the elected representatives of Europe's diverse Jewish communities.