UN’s Antonio Guterres counts on EU to stand against Islamophobia and anti-Semitism

Secretary General decries the rise of xenophobia and racism

epa09295087 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (R) welcomes Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres before their meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 23 June 2021.  EPA/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he is counting on the EU to be a bulwark against the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

The former Portuguese prime minister was speaking on arrival yesterday in Brussels alongside European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Ms von der Leyen congratulated Mr Guterres on his recent re-election as secretary general, saying the UN was "very lucky" and "very grateful" to have him at the helm.

“As a European, I’m particularly proud with the contribution that I consider the most important contribution of Europe to global civilisation – and that is in my opinion, the Enlightenment, the values of the Enlightenment. The primacy of reason, tolerance,” Mr Guterres said.

The Age of Enlightenment – also known as the Age of Reason – was a European intellectual movement that spread during the 17th and 18th centuries.

“This is particularly important when we see the risks of moving into a kind of post-Enlightenment era and where we see the multiplication of different forms of irrationality – nationalism, populism, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred.

“I believe that the European Union is, and we count on the European Union to be on the forefront of the good battle for the values of the Enlightenment, which, as I mentioned, were the very important contribution of Europe to global civilisation.”

Mr Guterres attended a working lunch with Ms von der Leyen and Commission leaders, with the recovery from Covid-19 and vaccine equity on the agenda.

Ms von der Leyen assured Mr Guterres that the EU and the Commission would "always stand by your side".

"We support you in your tireless work to strengthen multilateralism and to improve the rules-based order, globally, for all the topics we are dealing with together – be it peace and security, or the support for refugees, or overcoming the pandemic, but also fighting climate change," she said.
In September, Mr Guterres is scheduled to release his report, Our Common Agenda: Responding to Current and Future Challenges, which stems from a request by the UN General Assembly.

Mr Guterres is expected to publish a series of recommendations to address global problems – including the protection of the planet.

"We are ... very curious about what you call 'our common agenda', where we always volunteer to take a leading role", Ms von der Leyen said.