EU Parliament President: 'No EU Boycott Against Israel'
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem's president, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, awarded the Hebrew University's highest honor to European Parliament President Martin Schulz during a ceremony on Mount Scopus today. The honorary doctorate recognized Schulz’s efforts to deepen the European Union's relations with Israel and with Israeli universities. It also recognized his support for human rights and his public condemnations of anti-Semitism, exclusion and intolerance.
Receiving the award, a clearly emotional Schulz said: “This is an exceptional moment in my life. I could not hide, and will not hide, my emotion at being awarded an honorary doctorate from such a prestigious university." He added, "To be awarded here is a signal that there are more chances of fruitful and in-depth cooperation between the European Union and Israel than is normally publicly perceived or discussed, and that we should increase our cooperation on the basis of mutual understanding and trust, instead of mistrust."
President Schulz then delivered comments and answered questions from the audience. Excerpts of his Q&A can be viewed on YouTube at http://youtu.be/_PqWpbeEho4.
Asked about the European Parliament's approach to financial boycott initiatives against Israel, President Schulz replied: "There is no boycott. In the European Parliament there is for sure not a majority for a potential boycott. There is a debate if some of the products produced in occupied territories of settlements could have access to the European Union market in compatibility with European Union rules, and this is an open debate. My personal view is that a boycott is not a solution for anything. And therefore as president of the European Parliament I was strongly in favor, for example, of upgrading of the scientific cooperation between the European Union and Israel."
He added: "Boycott is a very tough word. To boycott means to completely block cooperation and trade between countries. We are not speaking about such a boycott. There is no concrete position of the European Union or its institutions for a boycott of Israeli products."
Asked about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, President Schulz said: "I think before interfering as the European Union in such a very complicated debate – I prefer to go another way: to support first of all [U.S. Secretary of State] Kerry's efforts to bring both sides together, and without any prejudices and preconditions. The best way to start negotiations is not to put at the first day, and at the first moment, conditions. This is by the way what I discussed yesterday with Mahmoud Abbas as well. If both sides would be prepared to say 'We'll start without prejudices and without conditions,' that would already be a historical step."
Martin Schulz was elected President of the European Parliament on 17 January 2012. He is married with two children.
Born on 20 December 1955, Martin Schulz grew up in Hehlrath, Germany, close to the German-Dutch-Belgian borders. After high school he did an apprenticeship as a bookseller, and in 1982 he opened his own bookstore in Würselen, which he successfully ran for 12 years. Joining the Social Democratic Party of Germany at the age of 19, he started out his political career. Aged 31, he was elected as the youngest mayor of North Rhine-Westphalia, a post he held for 11 years.
Since 1994, Martin Schulz is a Member of the European Parliament and has served in a number of committees, first serving on the sub-committee on Human Rights and then on the Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs. He led the SPD MEPs from 2000 and was subsequently elected Vice-Chair of the Socialist MEPs.
In 2004 he was elected group leader of the second largest group in the European Parliament. As leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Martin Schulz campaigned for social justice, promoting jobs and growth, reforming financial markets, fighting climate change, championing equality and creating a stronger and more democratic Europe.
Throughout his career, Martin Schulz has demonstrated a commitment to the security of Israel and to deepening and strengthening the relationship between Europe and Israel.
About the Hebrew University of Jerusalem
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel's premier academic and research institution, consistently ranked among the top universities worldwide. Serving 23,000 students from 80 countries, it trains the public, scientific, educational and professional leadership of Israel and world. Producing a third of Israel’s civilian research, it is ranked 12th worldwide in biotechnology patent filings and commercial development. The Hebrew University was founded in 1918 by visionaries including Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann. In the last decade, faculty and alumni have won seven Nobel Prizes and a Fields Medal.