Thank you to His Excellency, Reuven 'Ruvi' Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, who has joined us at tonight's celebrations.
We are celebrating Europe Day, which marks the speech of Robert Schuman, 69 years ago, which became the foundation of what is today the European Union.
We are also celebrating this year, 60 years of diplomatic relations and friendship with Israel.
I'd like also to thank Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo Ron Huldai for his cooperation in arranging the Electrovision festival.
I would like to welcome all my colleagues from the EU Member States and the head of the Romanian Cultural Institute who has joined us today from Bucharest.
Europe day belongs to us all.
It is a privilege to be here, at one of the most unique Europe Day events we have ever had. So first thank you to all our friends and colleagues for making this happen.
As we prepare for the European Parliament elections, when 350 million citizens will be called to cast their vote, EU leaders have reaffirmed both their determination to make the EU stronger, and their attachment to the founding values of democracy and the rule of law.
Because united we are stronger in this increasingly unsettling world.
In the past year, the EU has stepped up on the world stage, as a responsible global leader in key areas, such as the fight against climate change, upholding a rules-based international order, promoting free but also fair trade, providing a modern normative framework for the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Our challenges are not just our own. Regional instabilities are shared strategic and security interests for the EU and its neighbours. The impact of climate change is felt in our daily lives. Abuses of online data whether for financial or political gain, know no borders. On all of these issues, the EU has taken the world lead, and we have invited our partners across the world to join us.
Partnership and effective multilateralism are central to the way the EU sees the world. Who knows better than us Europeans of the significance of international law in resolving and preventing conflicts and ensuring that smaller powers are protected from stronger ones. The EU was created to respond to the horrors of the second world war and the Holocaust. The time when “might equaled right” taught us hard lessons that dictate our action of today.
The EU will remain an important partner for Israel as we celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations and friendship. The EU is, of course the first economic partner of Israel and our huge investment in EU-Israel cooperation in research and innovation over two decades has become a key part of that relationship.
Together, we have developed deep cooperation also in higher education, counter terrorism, air transportation, regulations and standards, energy, culture. Israel is, by choice, moving closer to us in all these fields and more.
Our futures are interdependent these days.
Which means we remain committed to peace in the region, and believe it is possible. Improved relations between Israel and the Arab world would unleash great potentials and we support full normalization of these relations.
But as we all know – this better future will not fully take place without a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians. Recently we witnessed again rocket attacks on the south of Israel from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, causing suffering to civilians on both sides. The current situation in Gaza and all the occupied Palestinian territories is unsustainable, and can lead to further crises.
It causes a huge amount of human suffering, for Palestinians and Israelis.
These are somber reminders of the urgency of continuing to work for the resumption of meaningful negotiations. A two-state solution is the only viable way forward to meet the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in dignity and security.
We are no fools. We understand the real difficulties in an unstable and also violent region. The EU reiterated its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel.
Further away on our own soil, the ageless curse of anti-Semitism has reared itself in Europe and elsewhere in the world. This ugly and very real threat to the human rights of European Jews is our utmost priority.
Mr President, dear Mayor, dear friends. I want to thank you all for joining us to celebrate this Europe day and for being witnesses and friends in the partnership between Europe and Israel which is now 60 years old.
This is a partnership between people. Between European and Israeli farmers, tourists, businesses, cultural groups, researchers and academics as well as students.
The number of tourists flying between the EU and Israeli is at its highest ever. There are now over 90 EU destinations to fly to from Ben Gurion airport thanks to the Open Sky agreement which the EU and Israel negotiated, and Israelis benefit from visa waiver travel.
Half of Israeli higher education institutions have participated in Erasmus programmes, while in 2018 for the first time more Israeli post-graduate students chose to study in the EU than anywhere else.
Just as the Eurovision began in 1956 as a way to bring previously warring countries together in a friendly competition, we see the power of sport, music and culture to bring people closer.
So we are happy to celebrate with you, and after our reception, I hope you will go and enjoy the Electrovision festival - our Europe Day event which has brought European electronic music artists to Tel Aviv, thanks also the Municipality of Tel Aviv- Yaffo and also to those EU Member State embassies which have been working with us to make this happen.
Toda raba! (Thank you)