European commission wades into Belgian anti-Semitism row

The European commission has intervened in the row about a carnival float that caricatured Jews during Aalst carnival.  Earlier several Belgian Jewish organisations filed complaints with the Belgian equal opportunities centre and the city of Aalst.

During Tuesday's media briefing at the European commission the commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said: "It should be self-evident that a parade in the streets of Europe with such representations should be absolutely inconceivable seventy-four years after the Shoah.  It is up to national authorities to take the measures needed on the basis of existing legislation."

"We Europeans cannot permit ourselves the luxury of dealing with such matters lightly.  The European commission certainly won't do that.  Because we enjoy the sad privilege of having experienced how the film ended.  We saw this during the last century and do not wish to see any repeat."

Christoph D'Haese, the Flemish nationalist mayor of Aalst, said that he doesn't think the floats encourage Anti-Semitism: "I understand (the complaints) because we must have respect for history and the wounds it created.  But I wish to add nuance and put certain things in context."

Mr D'Haese points out that Aalst carnival is a popular feast with lots of humour and people don't like to be told what they can laugh at and what not: "Everything is criticised without exception.  Political life, social life and religious life too don't escape from this.  It's been like this for years."