The long awaited Europe Day celebration was held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, as art, collaboration, and the perseverance of human spirit took center stage.
The ceremony began with a video presentation highlighting European Union achievements in overcoming the challenges of Covid-19. Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret then began his remarks with greetings in Hebrew and Arabic, to applause from the guests. Ambassador Giaufret noted that the 12 million vaccines produced in the EU that have been administered in Israel have sparked Israel’s emergence from the shadow of Covid-19. In European Union countries he noted, 1/3d of adults have now been vaccinated.
As the situation stabilizes, Europe is now pivoting to economic recovery, and Ambassador Giaufret emphasized that this would take the form of sustainable, environmentally friendly economic progress, as the EU Green Deal aims for climate neutrality by 2050. The EU and Israeli economies are themselves intertwined, with 34% of imports to Israel coming from the EU and 22% of exports headed there. Among the many other areas of cooperation between the countries, the ambassador noted tourism, education, and transportation, where there is shared interest in safer and cleaner seas, and the Open Skies agreement nearly doubled tourism levels.
The EU mission works with the national government, local municipalities, and civil society representatives, and Ambassador Giaufret gave a special thank you to the NGOs represented at the celebration, for their contributions to Israeli society. In the fields of research and innovation, this year marks 25 years of Israeli-EU collaboration, including 1.36 billion Euros allocated to Israeli-based projects through the Horizon2020 program.
Turning to security, the ambassador stressed the EU’s commitment to Israel’s right to self-defense, with a clear condemnation from the EU towards Hamas and other militant groups for attacking Israel. Moreover, the EU would now be implementing its first strategic plan on combatting anti-semitism.
Reflecting on the 1950 Schuman declaration which led to the creation of the EU, the ambassador explained that it sparked a revolution turning “battlefields into negotiating tables, and misery into prosperity”. Israelis and Palestinians, he noted, could also undergo such a transformation, and recent peace deals with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the UAE give further credence to the potential in such peace, with full support from the EU.
As the ambassador is concluding his four year tenure in Israel, he gave a heartfelt goodbye and thanked his staff at the EU mission, as well as colleagues and friends in Israel. Ambassador Giaufret revealed that one of his children was actually born at Sheba hospital during a prior assignment in Israel, and promised that the country would always have a special place in his heart.
Minister of Transportation Merav Michaeli spoke on behalf of the government of Israel. Congratulating the EU mission, she stated that the European Union itself is the greatest achievement of human peace and prosperity in history. The post-World War II transformation from manufacturing weapons into manufacturing life was nothing short of a miracle, said Minister Michaeli, and it serves as an inspiration and hope for Israelis and Palestinians. It presents a path of peace and prosperity that Israel and its neighbors must aspire to, the minister said.
Pointing out that a new Israeli government means a new direction for the country, she stressed that there would be opportunities for increased Israeli-EU cooperation, and that the government of Israel is dedicated to that goal. Concluding her remarks, she stressed the importance of addressing anti-semitism, and applauded the EU decision on that front. The anthems of the EU and Israel were then played, and a toast raised to the success of the EU and EU-Israeli cooperation.
Throughout the evening, guests enjoyed refreshments in the museum’s garden, with EU flags and floral arrangements decorating the garden and the interior of the museum. In addition, guests were invited to see “Towards a New Community”, a video art installation from top European and Israeli artists that has been displayed in Eilat, Haifa, and now Tel Aviv, on display at the Museum of Art. ”
Among the many distinguished guests were Merav Michaeli, Minister of Transportation; H.E. Mr. Gil Haskel, Chief of State Protocol at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Nathalie Mimoun, Honorary Consul of France; Gad Propper, Honorary Consul of New Zealand; Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan, President of the Ambassador’s Club; Dan Catarivas, Director General – Foreign Trade and International Relations at the Manufacturers Association of Israel; Nadav Tamir Director of International Affairs of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation; Rav Menahem ShemTov, chairman of the Rabbis Committee for Inter-Religious Dialogue on behalf of the United Nations (UN), Khadra Alsanah from the Sidreh association, and many more.
The diplomatic portal in Israel, www.diplomacy.co.il, congratulates the EU mission and thanks Ambassador Giaufret for his work promoting Israeli-EU relations
Photos by Silvia G. Golan
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