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Head of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP visits KAS offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah

by Dr. Lars Hänsel, Felix Dane
It was one of the first journeys as the new head of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) that led Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP to the KAS offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah. His early visit symbolized the great importance Dr. Pöttering attaches to the work of the KAS in the region and especially to the cooperation of the two offices in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

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For Dr. Pöttering, the MENA region, covering the Middle East and North Africa, is a domain of both professional and personal interest. As a Member of the European Parliament and the head of its Working Group on the Middle East, he has profound knowledge of the historical, political and cultural context in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict enfolds. On numerous informal travels to Arab countries, he has signalled not only his strong commitment to the region, but also his awareness of the strategic importance of the neighbouring states to the Middle East conflict. In May 2007, shortly before Hamas seized power, he visited the Gaza Strip and informed European policy makers about the state of affairs first-hand.

Head of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering in front of the KAS office in Jersalem

Accompanied by his two heads of office, Dr. Nino Galetti (KAS, Berlin) and Tobias Winkler (European Parliament, Brussels), Dr. Pöttering first met with the staff of the Jerusalem office and learned about the work of the KAS Israel. Many of the office’s projects are dedicated to deepening German-Israeli and European-Israeli ties, as well as supporting interreligious and intercultural dialogue. Furthering the human rights discourse and strengthening the Israeli democracy are key objectives, too. Of special significance are Israeli-Palestinian projects which enable dialogue between the two parties on different levels.

Meeting with the Codirectors of the KAS partner IPCRI, Dr. Gershon Baskin from Israel and Hanna Siniora from the Palestinian Territories, Dr. Pöttering informed himself about the joint projects, especially the KAS’ support for the Working Group on Political Analysis and the Economic Working Group. It became clear that in the future, cooperating in the analysis of the role of water, energy and environmental issues will be of heightened importance. Hanna Siniora even proposed regional cooperation on these questions, using the Schuman Plan that once paved the way for the unification of Europe as a model. In this context, both codirectors emphasized the crucial role of the European Union in the region.

On their way to Ramallah, Dr. Pöttering and his two assistants crossed Qalandiya checkpoint, allowing the visitors to get an impression of the severely limited freedom of movement Palestinians face in their daily lives.

Dr. Pöttering and the staff of the KAS office in Ramallah

In the KAS Ramallah office, Dr. Pöttering got to know all staff members who revealed their diverse educational and professional backgrounds, and learned about the office’s goals and current projects. Strengthening the rule of law in the Palestinian Territories is one of the core objectives of the KAS Ramallah, which is why the Institute of Law at Birzeit University has been supported for many years. Cooperating with the Institute of Community Partnership at Bethlehem University, the KAS furthers academic research as well as the education and training of administrative staff with the aim of creating autonomous and efficient local institutions. The support of MIFTAH is also meant to encourage democracy and “good governance”, but the approach is different, focusing on global dialogue and the development of high quality media. Crucial data on Palestinians’ attitudes towards the conflict and issues connected to it are being collected on a regular basis by the renowned Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, a long-term partner of the KAS Ramallah.

Dr. Pöttering has made it clear on various occasions that for him, the historic responsibility of the German people for the State of the Jews does not preclude German support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. On the contrary, the security of Israel and the development of a Palestinian state are inseparable and thus central to the work of the KAS in the region. For the Jerusalem and Ramallah offices, this means that with Dr. Pöttering, a committed supporter has joined the KAS who does not only vividly represent the foundation’s vision but also has a special interest in a solution to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Thanking both heads of office, Dr. Lars Hänsel and Felix Dane, Dr. Pöttering wished them the continuation of their successful work in this demanding environment.

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