Tuesday, 19 Jan 2021 - 6 of Shevat, 5781

Portugal takes over the six-month EU presidency of the Council

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During a visit in Jerusalem last month, Portuguese Foreign Minister Santos Silva stressed the need for warm relations between the European Union and Israel. He praised Israel’s decision to suspend its plan to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank , a move that eventually led to the recent normalization deals between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. 

As Portugal took over the six-month EU presidency from Germany on Friday, Portuguese Foreign Minister Santos Silva visited Israel last month as part of the preparation work for the presidency.

It was Silva’s second visit to Israel. He visited Jerusalem in 2016. He also met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Lisbon in 2019.

During his visit, the Portuguese Foreign Minister stressed the need for warm relations between the European Union and Israel. Silva praised Israel’s decision to suspend its plan to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank , a move that eventually led to the recent normalization deals between Israel, UAE, BahrainSudan and Morocco.

“It was important that the normalization process meant suspension of the annexation plans. It allowed us to see future conversation and cooperation with Israel in a much more positive way,” Silva said.

Israel and the EU have strong relations but differ on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the JCOPA, the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

The EU holds that a Palestinian state should be based on the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital, and has repeatedly expressed its supporter for the deal with Iran.

Among the topics that are likely to come up during the six-month Portuguese EU presidency is the possibility of convening the EU-Israel Association Council which has not met since 2012.

The Association Council is the highest level body regulating EU-Israel relations. The EU suspended the annual meeting to protest Israel’s settlement activity. In light of Israel’s pledge to suspend plans to extend Israel’s sovereignty over parts of the West Bank there has been a push by EU several member states for the Council to reconvene.

‘’Portugal is a trustworthy friend and ally of Israel. Their warm relations involve new collaborations in a variety of fields, such as in defense, cyber-terrorism, entrepreneurship, and agritech,’’ wrote João Lemos Esteves, a lecturer in the Law Faculty of the University of Lisbon and the Institute for Global Security Studies’ representative to the US.

The Portuguese presidency of the EU comes as President-elect Joe Biden is to be inaugurated on January 20. Strengthening the dialogue with the United States, a strategic partner in all fields, with a view to exploiting the full potential of transatlantic relations, is among the main topics included in Portugal’s EU programme.

Slovenia will take over the EU presidency from Portugal on July 1 2021

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