”We have decided to cancel the usual diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for,’’ said an EU statement.
On 9 May, Europe Day celebrates peace and unity in Europe. It marks the historic ‘Schuman declaration’ signed over 70 years ago, in 1950, which steered Europe towards a path of peace, prosperity and political cooperatione. On this occasion, the EU delegations around the world are organising various activities to mark this day.
But this year, the EU has decided to cancel the usual diplomatic reception celebrating Europe Day in Israel after the Israeli government selected National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to represent the Jewish state.
‘’Regrettably, this year we have decided to cancel the usual diplomatic reception, as we do not want to offer a platform to someone whose views contradict the values the European Union stands for,’’ said an EU statement released on Monday.
‘’However, the Europe Day cultural event for the Israeli public will be maintained to celebrate with our friends and partners in Israel the strong and constructive bilateral relationship,’’ the EU added.
On Monday, Peter Stano, spokesperson for foreign affairs at the European Commission, said the EU “didn’t endorse the political views of M. Ben-Gvir” and was “consulting internally and also with our member states on how to handle the situation.”
On Sunday, Ben-Gvir indicated he planned on attending the event, despite opposition from the EU.
Minister Ben-Gvir was selected last week to be the government’s secretariat to the celebration because the Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is on a visit to India and cannot attend the EU reception. The decision to send Ben-Gvir sparked outrage from EU officials who requested that a different representative be sent.
“We don’t support the political views of Minister Ben-Gvir, or his party. For example, many of his past statements and opinions contradict the views the European Union represents,” an EU official told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster, and requested that “a more respectful choice be made.”
On Sunday, Ben-Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, indicated he planned on attending the event, despite opposition from the EU.
His spokesperson said: “The minister believes that even if the representatives of the Union ‘do not support his views’ they understand very well that Israel is a democracy and in a democracy it is allowed to hear different opinions.’’
“Among other things, the minister will speak about the importance of the joint war on terrorism, will congratulate the European countries, will call for the strengthening of cooperation and will emphasize the need to unite around the fight against jihad and terrorists,” he added.