The European Union is not talking about boycotting Israel, the president of its parliament Martin Schulz said after receiving an honorary doctorate at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening.
“Boycott is a very tough word. To boycott means to completely block cooperation and trade between countries. We are not speaking about such a boycott,” he said.
As he answered questions from reporters on the possibility of a European boycott of Israel, he noted that this was the “thirteenth time today that I am asked” about this issue.
"There is no boycott. In the European Parliament there is for sure not a majority for a potential boycott,” Schulz said.
He acknowledged that there is a debate in Europe about issuing consumer guidelines to inform consumers about products that are produced in West Bank settlements.
But, he said, “There is no concrete position of the European Union or its institutions for a boycott of Israel or Israeli products.”
“My personal view is that a boycott is not a solution for anything,” Schulz said.
“And therefore, as president of the European parliament I was strongly in favor, for example, of upgrading the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Israel,” Schulz said.
Moving onto the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for a two-state solution, Schulz said that he supported the efforts of US Secretary of State John Kerry to broker such a deal.
To achieve a final status agreement, he said, Israeli and Palestinians must not insist on preconditions to talks.
“The best way to start negotiations is not to put at the first day, and at the first moment, conditions. This is by the way what I discussed yesterday with [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas as well.
“If both sides would be prepared to say 'We'll start without prejudices and without conditions,' that would already be a historical step.’ “But you know as well as I do, that for the time begin this is not the case,” Schulz said.
The German politician was been a member of the EU parliament since 1994. In 2004 he was elected to head the Socialists and Democrats in the Parliament and in 2012 he became president of the entire body.
Schulz is scheduled to address the Knesset on Wednesday and to meet with President Shimon Peres.
On Tuesday night Hebrew University honored him for his efforts to deepen the EU’s ties to Israel, his support for human rights and his condemnations of anti-Semitism.
“This is an exceptional moment in my life. I could not hide, and will not hide, my emotion at being awarded an honorary doctorate from such a prestigious university,” Schulz said.
"To be awarded here is a signal that there are more chances of fruitful and in-depth cooperation between the European Union and Israel than is normally publicly perceived or discussed, and that we should increase our cooperation on the basis of mutual understanding and trust, instead of mistrust.”