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European Parliament Members in First Post-COVID Trip to Israel Seek Stronger Ties, Cooperation on Climate Crisis

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Members of the European Parliament delegation during a visit to Israel. Photo: ELNET/ Reouven Ben Haim

A group of senior European Parliament members arrived in Israel this week in the first such visit since the coronavirus pandemic, in an effort to boost relations between Europe and Israel.

During the visit, eleven members of the European Parliament, representing four political groups and eight countries, met with Israel’s President Isaac Herzog and Israeli Knesset Members, officials and experts, to discuss shared interests in Israel-EU relations.

Herzog said the shared intellectual and cultural heritage between Europe and the Jewish state provide a solid foundation for further cooperation. In an open discussion with the MEPs about global issues, Herzog stressed Israel’s potential to help Europe face key challenges, including the climate crisis.

“Israel’s great contribution is the great new ideas that it can bring to the world,” the president said.

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The visit comes after the European Union and Israel last month finalized an agreement for the country to join the Horizon Europe scientific research program. Once enacted, Israeli researchers and scientists will be able to collaborate on EU-funded projects and benefit from access to grants from the $110.9 billion budgeted to the EU’s key funding program over the next seven years.

As part of the trip, the delegation is visiting Yad Vashem and hold discussions on rising antisemitism across Europe. Meanwhile, Herzog called on the European Parliament to act forcefully to combat hatred against Jews and appealed for more EU member states to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

Hosted by the European Leadership Network (ELNET), the delegation was led by MEP Antonio López-Isturíz White, who serves as the chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Israel.

“We are two democracies under threat — different threats. You have the survival threat against Iran and its proxies, and we have threats raging from populism and regimes that undermine our democracy,” stated López-Isturíz White. “There are things that we believe you need us — like the Horizon program, trade, and the fight against climate change. And we need you, for the security of Europe, for your expertise in this fascinating time of new technology.”

As part of their visit, the European lawmakers flew in helicopters to the north of Israel for first-hand experience of the Hezbollah tunnel system uncovered by the IDF. They were also briefed on the situation at the northern border with Lebanon.

The delegation included former Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip MEP, Belgian MEP Assita Kanko, Swedish MEP Michael David Lega, and the European People’s Party Deputy Secretary General Christian Kremer. From Germany, MEPs Jens Gieseke and Andreas Schwab joined the group.

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