First Experiences from Brussels

13 Oct , Blog


Notes from ESLI: October Issue

As you, dear colleagues and friends know, ESLI has opened an office in Brussels last month, September 2016 due to the increased workload in the capital of the European Union, and we would like to share with you our first experiences.

In Brussels, we have had the amazing opportunity to participate in collaborative and encouraging  brainstorming sessions. Whether seeking to set strategic goals or working  ad hoc on a community taskforce tackling a complex public issue such as the restitution of property as a part of restorative justice, we felt a need to discuss the matters  with our partners from civil society. Since its move, ESLI has been working in Brussels with the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO), the European Jewish Congress (EJC) and B’nai B’rith to develop a strategy for our common goals for post-Holocaust justice.

Using consensus-based approaches, together we were able to create solutions and decisions much more easily and efficiently than those made by using traditional decision-making methods. For instance, ESLI’s initiative of lobbying amendments to the Annual Report on Fundamental Rights, prepared by MEP Josef Nagy from the LIBE Committee at the European Parliament. The amendments were prepared by ESLI and covered the issue of restitution as an important part of restoring justice in the aftermath of extreme hate crimes. At first ESLI tried to lobby this amendment via the Rapporteur MEP Josef Nagy himself but without much development. Later, ESLI addressed EJC and WJRO and both of them recommended to address the European Alliance for Holocaust Survivors (EAHS)– a group of MEPs — and as a result the amendment was submitted by the Chair of EAHS, Mr. Gunnar Hökmark. This would be the first time that the issue of restitution finds itself in the Report on Fundamental Rights and would be considered as an EU issue.

This was possible because of the collaborative nature of our professional relationships with the EJC and WRJO and EAHS, to name a few,  and the cooperation has always resulted in effective and positive outcomes.

Together we continue to work on a range of issues. One of them is the organization of the International Conference on Importance of Restitution to Restore Justice after the Extreme Hate Crimes. As our work becomes more complex and demanding, it requires the cooperation of public authorities with civil society, the facilitation of communication and creation of platforms for structured and ongoing dialogue and collaboration.  The benefits of these practices are profound suggesting a message of commitment and openness, and to future cooperation–for which we are grateful and appreciative of.  

Now, in conjunction, we have created a Steering Committee with Israeli and Czech diplomatic missions in Brussels to work together on the International Conference. The Steering Committee met on 20 September 2016 and discussed the issues, related to the international conference, set priorities for governmental support, as well as defined the joint action with the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

The Steering Committee came to the following conclusions:

  1. The tentative date is 25.4.2016
  2. A division of labor is required: it was suggested that EJC will lead the political and logistical parts of the conference, and they need to examine this possibility and update the other participants regarding their level of involvement. ESLI will lead the content of the informative part and will focus on the database. WJRO will provide assistance to the EAHS. WJC and B’NAI B’RITH will also be included in the Steering Committee.
  3. The Israeli Permanent Mission to the EU will serve as the coordination platform and will assist in the political coordination with the EU institutions, as well as in consultation with the Czech Permanent Representative on how to involve other EU Permanent Representatives in this effort.  
  4. On 3.11.16 a meeting of the ESLI Board will take place in Prague. It was agreed that a second steering committee meeting will take place back-to-back to this meeting.

And last but not least, on 30 September 2016 ESLI, WJRO, EJC and B’NAI B’RITH gathered again to continue its work on the preparation of the International Conference. The purpose of the meeting was to unify our voices and brainstorm about preparatory activities if we are to deliver a successful conference with meaningful results in April. Our group agreed to meet regularly and to include a representative from the Permanent Israeli and Czech Mission to the EU.

Representatives of civil society organizations agreed to divide tasks according the proposed planning timeline elaborated by ESLI who is responsible for logistics of the conference. Based on the timeline EJC, WJRO and B’nai B’rith will identify which activities they can help with in order to serve the conference’s needs the best and the Steering Committee will approve assignments.  

Thus, the work is moving ahead, and we will keep our audiences and supporters updated on our progress in Brussels. United, we have achieved much!



Halyna Senyk

Executive Director