Netanyahu flies to Bulgaria to chip away at EU ‘hostility’

Netanyahu was originally scheduled to fly Thursday to Albania and take part in a meeting of several eastern European leaders, but postponed that trip.

Israeli Prime Minister meets with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister meets with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Bulgaria on Thursday to meet with the heads of four Balkan countries and further his policy of forging sub-alliances inside the EU to counteract what he views as hostile treatment of Israel from Brussels.
Before departing for Varna, where he is scheduled to meet Friday with the prime minister of Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and the president of Serbia – known as the Craiova Group after the Romanian city where the leaders of the four countries held their first summit in 2015 – Netanyahu said that he wants to work with these countries “to change the hypocritical and hostile approach off the EU” toward Israel.
“This is a process that will take time, but I believe in setting a goal, and systematically setting out to achieve it – and I believe this is something we will achieve with time,” he said.
This policy of seeking sub-alliances inside the EU led him to Vilnius in August, where he took part in a meeting of the leaders of the three Baltic states, and to Hungary in 2017, where he took part in a meeting of the Visegrad countries made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
He has also forged an alliance with Greece and Cyprus.
These efforts have borne fruit, as the countries that comprise these different groupings often stand up for Israel in various EU forums. For instance, in May, some of these countries prevented the EU from adopting a resolution that would have condemned the US for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Shortly after arriving in Bulgaria, he met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, whom he has already met twice previously this year, the last time in September in Jerusalem.
During brief statements before the meeting, Netanyahu said that radical Islam is a threat the world over, and that Israel has recently revealed a number of Iranian plots to carry out attacks on European soil. On Wednesday, an Israeli official was quoted as saying that the Mossad provided the intelligence that thwarted an alleged Iranian plot in Denmark to assassinate a figure in a movement calling for an ethnic Arab separatist region in Iran.
Netanyahu was originally scheduled to fly on Thursday to Albania and take part in a meeting of the leaders of Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but postponed that trip because a number of the leaders who had planned to attend were unable to do so.
In a related development, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is scheduled to come to Israel at the end of the month, though no firm date has yet been set, diplomatic officials confirmed on Thursday.
Poroshenko, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main rivals, was last in the country in 2015. He met Netanyahu in Davos, Switzerland, in January, where they discusses bilateral tie and a free trade agreement.
The purpose of the visit, according to one Israeli official, is to conclude the trade talks and has nothing to do with the current tension between Jerusalem and Moscow over Syria’s downing of a Russian intelligence plane in September.
A senior diplomatic official said that Netanyahu, who said last month he would be meeting Putin “soon” to discuss that incident, may meet the Russian president next month when they both are scheduled to attend a ceremony in France marking a century since the end of World War I. No official announcement of the meeting, however, has yet been released.