Hundreds of EU lawmakers arrive for pro-Israel conference
By GIL SHEFLER
Forums will be held where issues like the boycotting of Israel, the threat of terrorism and Israel’s business sector will be debated.
Some 450 European parliamentarians from 37 countries including all 27 members of the European Union were set to arrive in Israel on Friday for a three-day conference that starts Saturday.
During the three-day event organized by European Friends of Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group, lawmakers will tour the country and meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Nobody understands Europe is the key for the region because of the $22 billion in trade between Israel and Europe, among other things,” EFI head Michel Gourary told The Jerusalem Post. “If Europe wants to be an honest broker then we need better relations. After all, Israel is the most European country in the region.”
So far there have been no cancelations despite the riots in Egypt and fears that the tension may spread to other countries that neighbor Israel, organizers said.
“We don’t have a special panel dealing with the events in the region,” a spokesman said, “but it will certainly come up with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and MK Binyamin Ben- Eliezer.”
Prominent participants include Tsetska Tsacheva, president of the National Assembly of Bulgaria; Jan Figel, deputy prime minister of Slovakia; and Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, deputy minister of foreign affairs of Greece.
In addition there will be several former heads of state such as Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland (1995-2005); José María Alfredo Aznar López, former prime minister of Spain (1996-2004); and Dr. George Vassiliou, former president of the Republic of Cyprus (1988 – 1993).
Over the course of the weekend, forums will be held where issues like the boycotting of Israel, the threat of terrorism and Israel’s business sector will be debated. The conference is one of three that will take place over the next several days – The Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center will open on Monday while the Conference of Presidents will hold its gathering towards the end of week.