Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen's speech at the ceremony to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2022
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, which Finland observes as the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Persecution, we remember the lives lost to the destructive forces of intolerance, hatred and violence. In taking this moment to reflect on our collective grief, we look back on the past. This day reminds us of a painful part of our history and calls on us to bear responsibility for eradicating hate speech, racism and especially antisemitism – Europe’s original sin.
We live in a world where demonising statements, conspiracy theories and outright lies about the events of history mean that good people cannot be silent. In what is perhaps her most quoted idea, Hannah Arendt says that evil is not special but banal in nature. It is the indifference of ordinary people towards violations of human dignity.
In 2018, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, or FRA, warned of growing antisemitism in Europe. Racism can stem from anti-immigrant sentiments or islamophobia, but eventually, antisemitism seeps into hostile racist rhetoric. Unfortunately, we have not seen a change for the better. In fact, a recent report by the Fundamental Rights Agency shows that the situation is getting worse.
On 5 October 2021, the European Commission proposed the first EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.
Finland sees the value of the Commission’s proposal and considers it important to combat all forms antisemitism together, as a united European front.
The first pillar of the EU Strategy focuses on preventing and combating all forms of antisemitism, including antisemitic hate speech online. The Commission will support the Member States in designing and implementing their national strategies.
The second pillar seeks to ensure that Jews feel safe and can participate fully in European life. With this goal in mind, the Commission will provide EU funding to better protect public spaces and places of worship. This work will include measures to safeguard Jewish heritage and raise awareness of Jewish life, culture and traditions.
The third pillar aims to support our knowledge of the past. Europe must remember and be aware of its history, even the most horrific parts. The Commission will increase the visibility of Holocaust heritage and history through a variety of projects, such as creating a network of places where the Holocaust happened and establishing a research network on the topic.
Europe must never allow the shuttering of the Memorial organisation, which is committed to remembering our history. Our understanding of the history of Europe and European nations must not be built on a false interpretation of nationalism and the denial of truth.
Finland is not immune to antisemitism. In Finland, too, the Jewish Community of Helsinki has to spend a great deal of resources on surveillance and other security measures. We must address antisemitic rhetoric. We as a society must defend the rule of law, equality, solidarity, freedom of religion and the indivisible human dignity that belongs unequivocally to everyone.
During Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2019, I hosted a high-level discussion event on combating hate speech, hate crime and antisemitism in Europe. That meeting was a message from the Finnish Government: we do not accept racism or hate speech. We will never accept antisemitism in any form.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government is working to combat hate speech, racism and antisemitism. In 2019, we published Finland’s third National Action Plan for the Prevention of Violent Radicalisation and Extremism. The Government Action Plan for Combating Racism and Promoting Good Relations between Population Groups adopted last autumn is another central part of the anti-discrimination work of Prime Minister Marin’s Government.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Forms of hatred such as antisemitism have no place in Finland, Europe or the world. We must work tirelessly to defend our shared values and build a Finland, a Europe and a world where the rule of law, democracy, human rights and equality are fully realised.
Today is a day to remember. On all other days, we must work to ensure that no one has to be afraid in the future.