Dear Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz,
Excellencies, dear colleagues,
Friends of the European Union,
- It is a great pleasure to welcome you to our Europe Day celebration. Bruchim Habaim! Ahalan Wa-sahalan!
- Ke-Shagrir Ha-Ichud Ha-Eyropi b’Yisrael, zeh rega meod meragesh avuri lekabel et pneychem hayom kdey lachgog et Yom Eyropa beyachad ba-park hayafe hazeh, ba’Ir hamadhima hazot. Eyze kef lihiyot poh itchem b’Tel Aviv!
- It really is very special for me personally to live and work here in this country. This is the third time that I am serving in Israel, a place that is so close to my heart that I keep coming back! And I am happy to report that since my first posting here in 1996, the EU-Israel relationship has grown tremendously in so many fields, including of course, health, but also transport, trade, tourism, research, and many more.
- Who could have imagined that Tel Aviv would become a natural weekend getaway for Europeans? Or that EU-Israel R&I cooperation would reach billions of Euros? Not to speak, of course, of discussions on trilateral cooperation between the EU, Israel and Morocco and other countries of the Arab world!
- Minister Horowitz, you will surely agree that our health cooperation, which had been solid even before COVID-19, has further intensified during this unprecedented pandemic. Israel was a global leader in its vaccination drive, and we’re proud to say that it was in large parts made possible thanks to the fact that the more than 12 million doses that have been administered here were all produced in the European Union.
- In March, the European Union decided to open negotiations for an international agreement on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. We aim to adopt this treaty by 2024, and we are hopeful that Israel will join this important effort.
- We also look forward to Israel’s association to EU4Health, a 5 billion Euro programme aimed at preventing future health crises and contributing to the highest standards of healthcare.
- Medical cooperation is a major pillar of our bilateral relations, but our multifaceted collaboration span many different areas: culture, education, transportation, tourism, agriculture and of course trade.
- We are emerging economically stronger from these testing two years: the EU remains Israel’s biggest trade partner, accounting for 30 percent of its trade in goods in 2021. Total trade in goods between the EU and Israel in 2021 amounted to €37 billion – that’s €6 billion more than the previous year. Yishar Koah!
- Indeed, our relations are going from strength to strength, in all fields. Take for instance research and innovation. In 1996, the year I arrived here on my first posting, Israel for the first time participated in the EU’s flagship Framework Programme for Research. Since then, about 5,000 research contracts were signed as part of our R&I cooperation.
- As of December, Israel is formally associated to our current R&I program, called Horizon Europe, which is the biggest R&I programme in the world. Israel’s participation in Horizon Europe — which we are marking this week with a series of special events — will allow Israelis and European scientists, innovators and researchers to continue to work together on the solutions of tomorrow through cutting edge technologies. This is good news for Israelis and Europeans alike.
- We have also intensified our cooperation on issues such as justice affairs or the fight against racism and xenophobia. Last year, the European Commission issued its first-ever Comprehensive Strategy on Combatting Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life, an ambitious program that was hailed as a milestone by experts in the field. We aim to make this strategy a pillar of our renewed efforts to tackle the resurgent scourge of antisemitism in Europe and globally, a phenomenon that was at the centre of discussions a month ago when our EU Coordinator Katharina von Schnurbein joined a number of Special Envoys in Jerusalem.
- Dear friends, Europe Day, celebrated every year on May 9, marks the famous Schuman Declaration that laid the foundation for the European Union. After centuries of bloody wars, former enemies decided to become partners and created an unprecedented project of peace, prosperity, liberty and equality.
- Today, the EU is the world’s largest single-market area, where 27 member states comprising some 450 million people work together to better tackle today’s big challenges, such as COVID-19, climate change and the digital transformation of our societies. My country, Bulgaria, joined in 2007, and as events remind us today, its membership of the EU (and NATO) was the most fateful and positive development in its recent history.
- Tragically, Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has unleashed the horrors of war once more unto our continent. The EU has reacted with unprecedented speed and forcefulness to Russia’s aggression, by adopting robust sanctions. We have also stepped up our support to the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people in these difficult times, by opening our doors to all those fleeing Russia’s attacks and by providing massive financial, humanitarian and military support to Ukraine.
- We are grateful that Israel is standing with Europe and the US on the right side of history by condemning the atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine, and by providing much-needed aid to the country. We will continue to cooperate to ensure that international sanctions are fully implemented.
- Minister Horowitz, you were the first Israeli cabinet minister to visit Ukraine, to show solidarity and to visit the Israeli field hospital in Mostyska, west of Lviv. Kol hakavod lecha!
- To underline our commitment to Ukraine, we invited renowned Ukrainian singer Viktoria Leléka and her European Jazz Quartet to join our “Europarty” concert later this evening, together with Israeli pop legend Ivri Lider. As part of our efforts to promote this event on social media, we encouraged users to donate to Magen David Adom’s aid efforts in Ukraine. We were very encouraged to see many Israelis respond very enthusiastically to this idea.
- Do make sure to stay for what promises to be an unforgettable night of great music and international solidarity! (And yes, we haven’t forgotten that the semi-finale of the Eurovision is taking place tonight in Italy. We wish the best of luck to all contestants, and of course also to Israel’s Michael Ben David).
- Dear friends, chaverim yekarim, Peace is a fundamental pillar of the European project. We wish for peace to return to Europe, and for peace to be achieved here in this region as well. Sadly, a series of deadly terrorist attacks were carried out in Israel in recent weeks. We are still shocked about the sheer brutality of the despicable attack that took place exactly one week ago in the city of Elad, which killed three people and left 16 innocent children fatherless. We unequivocally condemn these abhorrent acts of violence, and we reiterate our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security!
- Ani chozer vemadgish: HaIchud HaEyropi meganeh bechol tokef piguim neged ezrachim yisraelim chafim mepesha! Anu mishtatfim betzaaram shel hamishpachot she-ibdu et yakireyhem bapiguim. Ha-mechuyavut shelanu l’bitchon Yisrael bilti meureret!
- In parallel, we will resolutely continue to support, politically and financially, the quest for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The EU was pleased to co-host practical and action-oriented discussions between the parties and international donors this week in Brussels for the AdHoc Liaison Committee, attended by Minister Frej. The impetus given by the landmark Abraham Accords to peace efforts in the region must be supported, to ensure that a sustainable, just and comprehensive resolution of the conflict, based on a two-State solution, can be achieved in the future.
- The EU-Israel relationship is already so deep but it grows deeper every day. With the COVID-19 crisis behind us, we are looking forward to welcoming to Israel a series of high-level delegations from the EU in the coming weeks. For instance, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola is scheduled to arrive here in a few days. She will be the ninth European Parliament President to address the Knesset, which once again testifies to the growing closeness of our friendship.
- In light of all this, I project the EU-Israel partnership to become even closer. In this sense, I wish you all a Happy Europe Day, Yom Eyropa Sameach!
- Todah rabah!