On July 1, Germany will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union for the coming six months, which brings together the 27 member states.
The EU presidency has an important internal role as the driver of the council’s work, and is the council’s voice and its face vis-à-vis the other EU institutions. The presidency works in close coordination with the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell.
Like Israel and most nations around the globe, the EU and its EU member states are facing unprecedented challenges, and the EU intends to lead the way out of the crisis caused by COVID-19.
One of the main lessons from the pandemic has been that nationalist reflexes and “my country first” approaches do not provide an adequate response to the far-reaching health and economic crisis the world is confronted with.
Therefore, the German presidency will be guided by the motto “Together for Europe’s recovery.” The ambition is to strengthen the EU as a sovereign and solitary actor, and at the same time, we will not leave anyone behind.
Together with our partners in the whole world, including Israel, the lessons from the pandemic can be an opportunity to advance important global policy goals, ranging from public health to climate change, in a coordinated manner and through multilateral channels.
The EU’s approach toward shaping the post-corona world will be a key point of reference for many countries during the German presidency. Europe’s recovery is guided by the principles of international cooperation, dialogue and multilateralism, as the following points illustrate.
First, the EU will continue a unified response to the pandemic and advocate multilateral approaches, including through the World Health Organization. Whilst we have all had to learn the hard way in this unprecedented crisis, the EU has, in fact, a strong basis in cooperative crisis-management. Thanks to the flexibility and initiative of EU institutions and member states, goods and medical supplies were made available and a recovery package was quickly implemented.
Second, in our ongoing response to the crisis, we will continue to underline the need for a strong economic and social recovery. Increasing competitiveness and strengthening the social pillar of the union has become – in the light of the economic fallout – more important than ever. Discussions are ongoing to mobilize significant additional support through the European Recovery Fund Plan.
The EU mobilized unprecedented support programs: Three huge aid schemes amounting to a volume of €540 billion to support workers, businesses and member states have already been put in place. Discussions are ongoing to mobilize significant additional support, amounting to up to €750b., through the European Recovery Fund Plan as part of the next multi-annual financial framework of the EU.
Third, we will continue the fight against climate change and realize our ambition to make Europe climate neutral by 2050, and this will be promoted during the German presidency. Rather than conflict with our European Green Deal, the corona crisis recovery has made it more resonant and urgent. Job growth, prosperity, economic stability and social inclusion are all part of the Green Deal and therefore central to our COVID recovery. We would like to enhance cooperation with the technologically most advanced partner countries, such as Israel, on mitigating the impact of climate change.
Israel has a lot to offer the EU’s agenda, which requires global partnership, innovative and sustainable technologies, research on artificial intelligence and an enhanced role of digitalization in education and health.
Fourth, engagement with key partners outside the EU has become even more important. The transatlantic relation remains the most important strategic relationship of the EU. In the coming six months and beyond, we will continue to strengthen our dialogue with China as well as India, tackle employment, business and migration together with our African partners, and increase cooperation with Latin America. In particular, we will continue to work closely with our partners in the Middle East to support regional stability and – where necessary – de-escalation and dialogue.
LAST BUT not least, we want to continue engaging with Israel on regional issues. The Middle East peace process is expected to stay high on the union’s agenda. Under the leadership of High Representative Borrell, we want to deepen our close relations with Israel, whose security is nonnegotiable for us.
It is the united position of the EU that only a negotiated two-state solution based on international parameters can bring peace, stability and security to the region. Unilateral annexation of occupied territories would constitute a clear violation of international law and would not be recognized by us. It would have consequences for the close relations we currently enjoy with Israel.
It is part of Europe’s identity to bring together and reconcile a wide spectrum of interests. We are confident that this will be a decisive asset in our efforts to mitigate the current pandemic, during the time of the German presidency as well as beyond. Despite the enormous challenges, we will strive for coming out of the crisis stronger, and opportunities for more cooperation to be seized. The need to act decisively, together and with partners, has been accelerated by the corona/COVID-19 crisis. We will rise to the challenge.
Susanne Wasum-Rainer is the German ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret is the EU ambassador to Israel.