Netanyahu first foreign leader to participate in Balkan Craiova Summit
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took part in a summit of the Craiova Group as the guest of honor in Varna, Bulgaria, on Friday. The summit was attended by the heads of state of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Greece, who comprise the Craiova Group. This was the first time that a foreign leader has been invited to the summit.
Following the bilateral meetings, Netanyahu said, “I am here at the summit of four countries – Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Romania. This is the first time that they have invited a leader outside these four countries to participate in their summit. This is a great honor for Israel and reflects Israel’s rising status in the world.”
“Each one of the leaders has individually told me that they will try to improve their consideration of Israel in relevant votes both at the EU and the UN,” Netanyahu said. “They all want to promote the gas pipeline from Leviathan to Europe and the Balkans. They are also very interested in Israeli gas and Israeli technology, and they would very much like Israel’s friendship. This is a good sign.”
Earlier on Friday, the Israeli prime minister held individual meetings with the four heads of state.
In his meeting with Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov, he discussed continued cooperation between the two countries in security, economics and technology.
In light of the intention of Israel, Greece and Cyprus to promote the construction of the East-Med pipeline for the export of gas to Europe, the prime ministers also discussed cooperation in this area. Netanyahu said on Thursday that he believes that part of the gas will also reach Bulgaria.
The meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă focused on strengthening relations between the two countries, including ways to increase trade and investment opportunities, as well as increasing cooperation in security, technology, energy and other bilateral issues.
Netanyahu told Dăncilă that Israel protects Europe by preventing dozens of terror attacks on its soil.
He also congratulated Dăncilă on Romania’s current presidency of the European Union and requested Dăncilă’s help in changing the EU’s position on Israel to a significant degree. Discussing their mutual interest in expanding economic cooperation, the Israeli prime minister and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić agreed about increasing trade between the two countries and also discussed the promotion of the East-Med gas pipeline project to export gas to Europe.
Netanyahu congratulated Serbia on its efforts regarding the preservation of its Jewish heritage.
“It is a pleasure for me to see you again and to talk to you about bilateral and regional issues, and I express my appreciation for your friendship and the renovation of the synagogue you carried out,” Netanyahu told Vučić.
Netanyahu and Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras discussed expanding their bilateral cooperation in several areas, with an emphasis on the East-Med gas pipeline project.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Bulgaria on Thursday to further his policy of forging sub-alliances inside the EU to counteract what he views as hostile treatment of Israel from Brussels.
Before departing for Varna, he said that he wants to work with these countries “to change the hypocritical and hostile approach-off the EU” toward Israel.
“This is a process that will take time, but I believe in setting a goal, and systematically set out to achieve it – and I believe this is something we will achieve with time,” he said.
This policy of seeking sub-alliances inside the EU led Netanyahu to Vilnius in August, where he took part in a meeting of the leaders of the three Baltic states, and to Hungary in 2017, where he took part in a meeting of the Visegrad countries made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Netanyahu has also forged an alliance with Greece and Cyprus.
These efforts have borne fruit, as the countries that comprise these different groupings often stand up for Israel in various EU forums. For instance, in May, some of these countries prevented the EU from adopting a resolution that would have condemned the US for moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
Herb Keinon contributed to this article The Kootneeti Middle East Monitor