Leaders of the Visegrad Group—Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia—met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Budapest on Wednesday, and vowed to support improved Israel-EU relations.
In a statement following the meeting, the five leaders agreed to enhance EU-Israel relations in areas of mutual interest, including cooperation on economic, political, strategic, regional, innovation, and people-to-people issues.
They also agreed to promote an improved relationship between the State of Israel and the EU, and emphasized the strong common interest in convening the EU-Israel Association Council as soon as possible, which could lead to the setting of new partnership priorities, in accordance with the reviewed European Neighborhood Policy.
The Hungarian prime minister said that “we should reiterate our acknowledgement towards Israel for what it does for the security of Europe. In the future, we shall promote cooperation between the European Union and Israel.”
Following my meeting with the Visegrad Group, I met with Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka, Polish PM Beata Szydlo & Slovak PM Robert Fico. pic.twitter.com/n9lMlyqOdF
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) July 19, 2017
Netanyahu spoke in a private session of the group but his off the cuff remarks were heard by journalists because the microphones were accidentally switched on. Netanyahu severely criticised the EU and its attempts to condition relations with Israel on progress in peace talks with the Palestinians. He said, “I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive or if it wants to shrivel and disappear.”
Comparing the EU to China, Russia and India, which Netanyahu emphasised have special relationships with Israel but make no linkages to progress in the peace process, Netanyahu said: “The European Union is the only association of countries in the world that conditions the relations with Israel, that produces technology in every area, on political conditions. The only ones! Nobody does it. It’s crazy.” “There is no logic here. Europe is undermining its security by undermining Israel. Europe is undermining its progress by undermining the connection with Israeli innovation because of a crazy attempt to create conditions.”