Lithuanian FM: Europe watching Israel’s judicial overhaul with growing concern

Concluding visit, Gabrielius Landsbergis also says a consensus is building to designate Iran’s IRGC as a terror group amid its cooperation with Russia in Ukraine

Gabrielius Landsbergis in 2021. (CC BY-SA Ragaiselis/Wikimedia Commons)
Gabrielius Landsbergis in 2021. (CC BY-SA Ragaiselis/Wikimedia Commons)

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Friday that Europe was increasingly concerned over the Israeli government’s legislation to transform the country’s justice system.

Speaking to Walla news and Axios at the end of a visit to Israel, Landsbergis said he had made this clear during meetings with President Isaac Herzog, his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen and other top officials.

He added that European nations were following developments on the matter carefully.

“As EU and as a country which is outspoken about rule of law based environment in the EU, definitely this is something that we are worried about and I had a chance to express that,” he said.

Foreign officials have increasingly expressed public concern over the judicial overhaul plans.

A group of foreign ambassadors reportedly peppered Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana with questions and concerns regarding the major reforms during a private meeting in parliament earlier this week.

Dozens of envoys were in the room for the meeting, and those representing Western countries were the most adamant about their concerns, worrying aloud that the coalition’s plans could lead to the weakening of Israel’s judiciary and the end of its independence, according to a Thursday report on the Kan public broadcaster.

The government is currently advancing legislation that would radically overhaul the judiciary by giving the government and coalition full control over the appointment of all judges, including Supreme Court justices, and practically eliminating the High Court of Justice’s ability to strike down legislation that violates rights laid out in the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.

Turning to Iran, Landsbergis said there was a “growing consensus” in the European Union on designating the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization for the military support it provides to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

“A very serious conversation” on the matter was taking place in Brussels, he noted. “There are practical and legal issues that need to be sorted out but I think we might be getting there.”

He added: “We didn’t expect, as European Union, to have Iran knocking on our door. We thought it is a Middle East issue that we need to keep an eye on but what we are seeing now is that there is growing cooperation between Iran and Russia. Iran is coming closer to us. We need to have a reaction about that.”

He added that Vilnius was interested in greater security ties with Israel, including on air defense capabilities.

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