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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article14 June 2022Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Statement by President von der Leyen with Israeli Prime Minister Bennett

VDL Israel meeting

Thank you very much Prime Minister,

Thank you for the warm welcome I receive here in Jerusalem. And indeed, the European Union and Israel share ties and unique bonds because we have a shared history and we share values. And therefore, I am very glad about – you mentioned it – the excellent cooperation we have in the different fields, like energy; culture; you mentioned the trade, of course; research; and our outstanding cooperation on innovation or health, to name just a few. On health, I want to thank you and the people of Israel – and the scientists of Israel, too – because you have been outstanding at the beginning of the pandemic, when all of us were looking for an effective and safe vaccine. And the fact that you had an outstanding approach to the vaccination campaign, here in Israel, with collecting data on a broad scientific basis, sharing the data with us, gave you a front-runner position, where you proved to the world that the mRNA vaccines are safe and effective. And I cannot thank you enough for that, because we know by experience now how devastating this pandemic was and how important the development and then the application of the mRNA vaccines have been.

I am very happy, indeed, that Israel is participating in our research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe. That is wonderful because you are outstanding, and indeed your scientists are phenomenal. And I am convinced that both Israel and the European Union will benefit tremendously from this cooperation. I had a first impression of the Ben-Gurion University today – I will tell you at dinner. It was fascinating. You know how excellent they are, but I am still thrilled about all the stories and the research passion that I could sense there, in the Ben-Gurion University, mainly also of course for the pressing issues that we have to tackle together. So I think that this great cooperation will make our partnership even stronger. This is particularly important in these difficult and bleak times. You mentioned Russia's war against Ukraine and it has indeed severe consequences for Europe and far beyond. We need to work together to address them.

The first is indeed that we want to boost our energy cooperation with Israel. The European Union was the biggest, the most important client of the Russian supplier – for oil, gas and coal. But with the beginning of this war and the attempt of Russia to blackmail us through energy, by deliberately cutting off the energy supplies, we decided to cut off and to get rid of the dependency on Russian fossil fuels, and to move away from Russia and diversify to trustworthy suppliers. So it is for us very important – and I am very grateful that we are now discussing this fascinating project – that you are willing to increase the deliveries of gas to the European Union via Egypt. And tomorrow, we will already take a very important step, with the signing of a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding between Israel, the European Union and Egypt.

This will help step up the deliveries of energy to Europe. So here, you will bring from Israel, via pipeline – hopefully one day hydrogen-ready pipeline – to Egypt, it will be liquefied to LNG and then brought to the European Union. I think that this is a very important project but we know that, over time, we should jointly explore the use of infrastructure for renewable energy. This is the energy of the future. It is good for our climate, it is good for our independence, it creates highly-paying jobs. So it is an outstanding step bringing our energy cooperation to the next level. You have here in abundance all the resources that are necessary for renewables – sun and wind, and other resources. Therefore, I am very much looking forward to intensifying the cooperation on that field.

Second, we have the duty to help to protect the world from a major food crisis – you were mentioning it. The Kremlin's war and Russia's blockade of the Black Sea are threatening the global food security, especially in vulnerable regions like yours here. 20 million tonnes of grain are trapped in Ukraine and cannot be exported. So we are doing our part and our best to help to export it, to get grain out of Ukraine, to boost our own production, to support neighbours in ramping up food production as well. But we have to look further to the mid and long term. And here, Israel can play a tremendously important role. Because you have a unique expertise in innovative, resource-efficient agriculture. I do not have to tell you that the founders of your country have basically made crops spring up from the driest of deserts. You made the desert bloom. Today, the world desperately needs these technologies to really have a shift what food supply and food security is concerned.

Finally, the EU and Israel both have the interest in a secure and stable Middle East in common. And we see you as a crucial partner in pursuing this objective. I want to commend you on the normalisation of your relations with some of your Arab neighbours, the Abraham Accords, this is a big step forward. And in time, it could, I hope, also help advance relations between Israel and the Palestinians. We strongly condemn the recent terror attacks in Israel and we mourn their victims. The violence must stop. So we very much welcome all the efforts towards peace. And we think that the Abraham Accords could offer hope towards that goal.

I am very much look forward to the dinner. There are many more topics that we have to discuss. And many thanks for having me.

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