European Jewish Leader: E.U.-Israel Economic Ties Must Not Be Utilized As Bargaining Chip

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SOFIA —A European Jewish Congress (EJC) delegation called on Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov to use his influence to combat calls in the EU to suspend the process of upgrading relations with Israel.

“There are unfortunately some discordant voices within the EU who use Israel’s economic development as a political bargaining chip in issues that have little to do with economics and trade,” said Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, during a meeting in Sofia.

In the wake of Israel’s operation in Gaza in January, the EU has suspended the planned upgrade of EU-Israel relations. It said the move will not go ahead until Israel halts settlement expansion and accepts a two-state solution.

The EJC said the meeting with the Bulgarian President and high-level members of the Bulgarian government is part of an ongoing effort to promote issues of importance to the European Jewish community with European leaders and to coordinate an organized effort regarding the Iranian nuclear threat.

The EJC is a democratically elected representative body of Jewish communities across Europe.

Kantor called for a consensus on Iran’s nuclear program: “It is time to act now against the Iranian regime. The European Union must adopt a strict and consistent policy to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

“Now that parts of Europe are within Iranian missile range, it behooves European leaders to act quickly and drastically to prevent Iran from terrorizing Europe with these weapons.”

Kantor said the recent declaration of Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt at the EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting, that “If they (Iran) decide to go for confrontation, then confrontation will happen.” “is encouraging, but there needs to be action behind the words.”

The EJC delegation also called on the Bulgarian government to be vigilant against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and racism, especially in politics.

“In Bulgaria, extremist parties should be monitored and legal action should be adopted if they incite xenophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of intolerance,” Kantor said.

He added: “There is a growing phenomenon of far-right extremist parties across Europe some whom have managed to gain a foot-hold in the European Parliament, and have used these intolerances, most notably anti-Semitism, as a platform to political power.”

Kantor also noted that 70 years after the Second World War began, which destroyed whole European Jewish communities; there is a Jewish renaissance in some of these communities.

“It is especially symbolic for me to be in Bulgaria at this time, a country that, against all odds and against history itself, managed to save almost 50,000 Jewish Bulgarians from deportation and certain death,” Kantor said at a dinner to honour President Parvanov.

“For this the Jewish people are extremely grateful to those Bulgarians, including parliamentarians, the intelligentsia, orthodox priests and ordinary citizens who took a stand against tyranny and refused to sacrifice their fellow Bulgarians. Of course we must not forget the fate of the Jews in Thrace and Macedonia, as well as elsewhere, who perished under the Nazis. They must not and will never be forgotten.”