Wednesday, 25 January 2023 / 3 Shevat 5783 - President Isaac Herzog met today with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, at the European Commission building in Brussels. The European Commission is the executive arm of the European Union, and President von der Leyen has served in her role since 2019.
In their meeting, the Presidents discussed Israel-EU relations, which find expression in extensive and comprehensive collaborations in trade, agriculture, tourism, and aviation, as well as R&D and culture, and ways to deepen cooperation in additional fields, such as energy, food security, climate, and more.
At the start of their meeting, President Isaac Herzog said: “Thank you, Madame President, it’s an honor again to see you here. And it is an honor to see you after you visited us in Israel; it was a wonderful visit, which is remembered by all, because you are a true friend. I also want to thank you wholeheartedly for pursuing the memory of the Holocaust, the Shoah. Tomorrow I will be speaking at the European Parliament, marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.”
The President added: “The European Union is a very important element in our lives, and it is a potential strategic partner for Israel in so many ways, and we are real potential strategic partners for Europe in so many ways. We have common challenges, we have so much to share in doing good for the world, and there are so many issues that we can work together on toward resolving and helping humanity at large. And the Erasmus students are just the perfect example of how we can build future generations together.”
President Herzog addressed the Iranian threat and said: “One of the main challenges that we are faced with, and I think it is clear now that Europe is faced with, is the fact that Iran is in Europe. Iran is fighting Ukrainian citizens by supplying drones and lethal weapons, endangering the world by rushing toward nuclear capabilities, killing and torturing its own citizens, and we believe it is about time that Europe take a very firm stance on Iran as it is a challenge not only to Israel, the region, the Middle East, but also to Europe and the world. The Abraham Accords have made a huge change, as you have seen and heard, Madame President. It is a sea change in world affairs, perhaps the only positive development in world affairs in recent times. We are moving forward, we are looking for more partners in the Abraham Accords, and they are bringing new spirit in the region.”
Finally President Herzog thanked President von der Leyen and said: “And finally, I want to thank you, Madame President, for leading the fight against antisemitism. It’s raising its ugly head in the world and in Europe, unfortunately. As you know all too well, it starts with antisemitism; it never ends with it. And as we are entering International Holocaust Remembrance Day tomorrow, I think it is only symbolic that I am here together with you, confirming our strong commitment to fighting antisemitism and hate wherever it is.”
President Ursula von der Leyen: “I of course vividly remember last year my visit to Israel, and you were a wonderful host, so it is a pleasure and an honor now to host you here. We have a lot of very good relationships in the friendship we are working on together. Last year I remember that we resumed the Association Council, we signed the Trilateral Memorandum on Energy, but I think if I look into our relationship, the strongest expression of the friendship between Israel and the European Union are 15,000 Erasmus students who are coming from the European Union to Israel, but also from Israel to the European Union, and so I think this is the most vivid sign of our friendship. It’s wonderful to have you here!”