Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on EU relations with Israel and the new round of Middle East peace talks. This interview was published in the Jüdische Allgemeine newspaper on 16 August 2013.
Minister, the European Union’s guidelines for its support programmes for Israel have met with criticism in Jerusalem.The Israeli Government has called for “clarification” of this issue. Were you able to explain the position taken in Brussels and Berlin?
I have advocated constructive direct talks between the Israeli Government and the European Commission in order to find a pragmatic solution. Commission representatives are in Israel this week for this very purpose.
Clarification seemed necessary, as the CDU/CSU foreign policy spokesman Philipp Mißfelder recently stated that the German Government had distanced itself from the guidelines.Was that a misunderstanding?
Germany would like the EU to continue its intensive cooperation with Israel in the field of research. The Commission claims that its guidelines comply with the decision taken by the EU Foreign Ministers in December 2012 and are in accordance with the international legal position adopted by all EU states. It should thus be possible to come to some kind of constructive agreement.
What do you think of Industry Minister and Jewish Home Party leader Naftali Bennett’s call to end cooperation with the EU?
Israel and the EU are close partners, also in top-level research. We both have a great deal to gain from cooperation. The last joint EU-Israeli research programme had a volume of over one billion euros. It’s in our mutual interest to continue this cooperation.
Will Israel take part as planned in Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation?
I would welcome it very much. Universities and research institutes in Europe and Israel need this funding to ensure that their cooperation is successful in the future, too. Their cooperation is beneficial to both sides and should be continued.
Your visit to Israel on Sunday and Monday focused on the resumption of direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. How likely do you think these talks are to succeed?
The resumption of direct talks finally means there is a chance that actual progress can be made on the road towards a two-state solution. In our opinion, such a solution is needed to bring lasting peace and security for Israel. And it is within reach, if only mutual trust can be established and both sides approach the talks with the necessary willingness to compromise. Germany is ready to support this negotiation process in any sensible way it can.
This interview with the German Foreign Minister was conducted by Detlef David Kauschke and reproduced by kind permission of the Jüdische Allgemeine.