European Union flags in Brussels 311.
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Czech Foreign Minister Karl Schwarzenberg, considered one of Israel’s strongest
supporters inside the EU, told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that Israel needs to
engage more intensively with Europe, and is not doing itself any favors by
declaring that the European Union is in danger of becoming irrelevant in the
Schwarzenberg, attending the 12th annual Herzliya Conference
at the IDC, was referring to a statement put out by the Foreign Ministry last
month following a communique very critical of Israel issued by Britain, France,
Germany and Portugal.
The Czech Republic is considered, along with the
Netherlands and Italy, among Israel’s strongest supporters inside the EU, and
those countries – along with Romania, Bulgaria, and at times, Germany – form a
bloc inside the EU that often tones down or stops critical statements and
policies coming out of Brussels.
Jerusalem, Schwarzenberg said, could do
more to win over other EU nations by engaging more actively both with the
individual countries, and with the EU institutions in Brussels.
has not, he added, won over friends by essentially telling the EU over the last
few decades that its ally is the United States, and that “we want them to be
active in the Middle East, we don’t want you to be active. Keep
That attitude, he said, has “left some residue.”
“If you say
to someone we are irrelevant,” he said, “the natural reaction is for the person
to say, ‘We will show you how irrelevant we are.’”
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Schwarzenberg said the Czech
Republic’s high-profile support of Israel inside the EU institutions does not
cause problems for his country.
“They patiently listen to me,” he
Schwarzenberg said “thank God” he did not have to work alone, and
that “we can rely on the Dutch, and now very much on the Romanians and
Bulgarians, and sometimes the Germans.”
Poland, he said, is “more
neutral, they are not so engaged. They are not against, but they are not
engaged. Whereas the Dutch are more engaged.”
Schwarzenberg said he did
not feel Israel was properly understood in the EU. The most recent example of a
lack of understanding was Operation Cast Lead. He said that Europeans, not
accustomed to war for 70 years, have a difficulty understanding the use of force
in any situation.
“Europeans have become great peaceniks,” he said,
explaining this attitude.
Schwarzenberg said the European lack of
understanding of the need of force does not only apply to Israel, but also
extends to the American use of force in Afghanistan, adding: “one does not
understand the settlement policy as it is now.”
Asked to explain the
Czech Republic’s strong support for Israel, Schwarzenberg cited four
The first is friendly historical connections going back to the
time of the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia, Tomas Masaryk, who
was a strong advocate of Zionism. Secondly is a shared fate both countries face
as small nations threatened by bigger neighbors. Thirdly, he said, the support
stems from a backlash against Soviet domination of Czechoslovakia.
had for quite a long time difficult relations with our neighbors. So what they
did, we didn’t like, and did the opposite,” he said of the Soviet Union’s
And finally, he said, the strong Czech support also
comes from that fact that “so many people of Jewish origin are part of our
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