European Jewish groups on Wednesday welcomed the appointment of Antonio Tajani of Italy as the new European Parliament President. Tajani, 63, of the center-right European People’s Party beat center-left leader and fellow Italian Gianni Pittella by 351 votes to 282.
Tajani is Italian politician, an ally of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and former vice-president of the European Parliament and the European Commission.
Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), noted that at a CER dinner in the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels last September, Tajani had reassured him that he would do “everything in his powers to preserve the rights and safety of the Jewish community in Europe. We look forward to working with Mr Tajani in his new role as we continue to work towards making Europe a safe, open and inclusive place for members of all religions to call home.” The American Jewish Congress too congratulated Tajani on his election.
“The AJCongress looks forward to working with Mr Tajani during his stewardship of the European Parliament to further strengthen the strong relationship between Israel and the European Union,” said American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen.
“Throughout his time in the European Parliament, Mr Tajani has been a strong supporter of Israel,” he continued. “Notably, Mr Tajani’s led a delegation of industry associations and company representatives from EU countries to Israel, to strengthen business relations between the EU and Israel.” “The AJCongress hopes that Mr Tajani will continue his strong support for Israel in his new role.”
One of President Tajani’s first official functions will be to host the official EU event to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day next week, held every January at the European Parliament in collaboration with the European Jewish Congress.
European Jewish Congress President Dr. Moshe Kantor lauded Tajani’s involvement in this event, stating that “his ongoing concerns for the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and for fighting antisemitism and racism are commendable.”
“We welcome the election of new European Parliament President Antonio Tajani” Kantor said. “We very much look forward to working with him on a wide range of issues of mutual interest.”
“President Tajani has been a good friend of the Italian Jewish community and the State of Israel and has been a fearless proponent of stronger ties between Israel and the European Union, especially in trade and technological cooperation,” he added.
Dr. Kantor also paid tribute to outgoing President Martin Schulz, who ensured that the Holocaust remembrance event became an official annual event in the European Parliament.
“We are very grateful for the friendship and assistance that President Schulz has shown us at the EJC and the wider European Jewish community during his tenure,” Dr. Kantor said. “We especially thank him for his work on ensuring that this event takes place and is well attended by all levels of the European Union.”
Reuters contributed to this report.