FM Shalom Addresses Wider Europe Program
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom addressed Israel’s participation in the Wider Europe program today at the Foreign Ministry of Jerusalem. Speaking to Members of Knesset, officials from government offices and agencies, academia and reporters, Foreign Minister Shalom stressed the importance of strengthening relations between Israel and Europe and outlined steps that he has already taken since he took up his post in March 2003.
The Foreign Minister commended the EU on its decision to include Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations with no distinction between the Hamas military and political wings, calling it an important breakthrough. "This decision reflects a common understanding between Israel, the US and the EU on terrorism and reflects a conceptual change on the part of the Europeans," Shalom said. "When I addressed the Council of Foreign Ministers just two months ago in Brussels, they tried to explain to me the difference between Hamas’ military and political arms. I told them that a terrorist who gives charity is still a terrorist. I also told them that Hamas was not a philanthropic organization. Rather it donated money to poor families only to recruit their children for suicide attacks thereafter."
Foreign Minister Shalom noted that until this point, discussions about Europe centered on cooperation. He said that from now on, discussions will center on integration. "I am not a man of big declarations and that is why I will not declare that Israel will join the EU. I believe that when things are done gradually, step-by-step, they last because they have a strong foundation to support them."
He closed by noting that there is new momentum between Israel and Europe and that he has no doubt that both sides are taking advantage of it and that it will produce results in cultural, research and economic fields. He singled out Israel’s R&D agreement with Europe as an example of fruits that increased bilateral relations can bear.