Transatlantic Friends of Israel

Mission statement

The Transatlantic Friends of Israel is a cross-party, inter-parliamentary group dedicated to the postwar order of transatlantic security and cooperation bestowed on us by visionary American and European leaders. We are united in the conviction that Israel, the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, ought to be understood as an integral part of this vital security, political, and economic architecture.

We affirm that the alliance between Europe, the United States, and Israel is anchored in shared values, interests, and history. This trilateral partnership is a crucial vehicle to strengthen our security and prosperity and to protect the rules-based international order.

We recognize that the threats we face today – from rising extremism and terrorism to radical regimes and nuclear proliferation – require ever closer cooperation among our democracies. In this struggle, Israel is Europe’s and America’s first line of defense in a volatile region. With its first-class security services, cutting-edge high-tech sector, and thriving knowledge-based economy, the Jewish state is a vital ally and partner.

We urge Europe, the United States, and Israel to deepen their political, security and economic cooperation within the framework of a strong trilateral partnership. We refuse to allow the inevitable differences that arise even among the closest partners to jeopardize this bond.

Leadership

Chair

Lukas Mandl

Member of the European Parliament, EPP Group, Austria

Lukas Mandl is a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Subcommittee Security and Defence, as well as the Development Committee. Prior to becoming an MEP in 2017, Mandl was a Member of the State Parliament of Lower Austria since 2008. After being re-elected 2013, Mandl took the chairmanship of the legislature's Committee of European Affairs. Mandl was also Vice Mayor of his home town Gerasdorf and therefore active on each political level. A core principle of his political work is defending western values in the sense of freedom, democracy and rule of law. Mandl holds a degree (Mag. Phil.) in Communications from the University of Vienna, is married to the lawyer Kristina Mandl, and has three children with her.

Vice Chair

Petras Auštrevičius

Member of the European Parliament, Renew Europe Group, Lithuania

Petras Auštrevičius sits in the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Subcommittee on Security and Defence and is a substitute member in the Committee on Transport and Tourism and the Subcommittee on Human Rights. Before being elected as an MEP in 2014, Mr. Auštrevičius was a member of the Lithuanian Parliament, the Chief Negotiator for Lithuania’s EU membership, and a diplomat. From 1994 to 1997, he was Lithuania’s Ambassador to Finland. Auštrevičius is a co-founder and first chairman of the Liberals Movement of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as co-founder of the Lithuanian Free Market Institute and the Institute of Liberal Thought. Auštrevičius holds a diploma in Economics from Vilnius State University. 

Vice Chair

Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou

Member of the European Parliament, EPP Group, Greece

Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou is a Member of the European Parliament and Vice Chair of the Committee on International Trade. Asimakopoulou studied economics and law in the USA and in the UK and worked for several years as a lawyer in New York, specializing in financial transactions and international banking law. She worked as an evaluator of projects funded by the European Commission and as a consultant in the private sector in Brussels and Luxembourg. She served as Deputy-Mayor of the City of Ioannina (2010-2012) and an elected member of the Hellenic Parliament (2012-2019). She was appointed Spokesperson of the New Democracy Party in 2013. She was Head of Fiscal Policy Sector (2015), Head of the Development and Competition Sector (2016) and Head of the Digital Policy, Telecommunications & Media Sector for New Democracy (2016-2019).

Vice Chair

Dietmar Köster

Member of the European Parliament, S&D Group, Germany

Dietmar Köster is a Member of the European Parliament and sits on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Subcommittee on Human Rights, as well as the Delegations for relations with the United States and Iran. Köster is also a substitute member of the Committee on Civil Liberties and the Delegations for relations with Israel. Before being elected as an MEP in 2014, Köster was head of the "New Age" educational center in Hattingen from 1990 to 2002 and later served as Managing Director the Geragogik Research Institute in Witten until 2012. Köster is a professor of social sciences.

Vice Chair

Alexandr Vondra

Member of the European Parliament, ECR Group, Czechia

Alexandr Vondra is a Member of the European Parliament and member of the European Parliament's delegations for relations with the U.S. and Israel. He is former Minister of Defense (2010-2012), as well as Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs (2007-2009) and former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2006-2007). He was the Czech Government's Plenipotentiary for the preparation of the NATO Summit in Prague (2002). He also served as Czech Ambassador to the United States (1997-2001). He worked as a foreign policy advisor to former President Václav Havel. During the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, he became a co-founder and leading member of the Civic Forum movement.

Vice Chair

Carmen Avram

Member of the European Parliament, S&D Group, Romania

Carmen Gabriela Avram sits in the Committee on Agricultural and Rural Development and is a member of the European Parliament’s delegations for relations with Israel and Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, and is a substitute member in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. Prior to her election as an MEP in 2019, Avram worked as a journalist for Romanian television between 1996 to 2019, including reporting on the Middle East and as a Brussels correspondent. Avram is a trained engineer from the the "Gheorghe Asachi" Polytechnic Institute and graduated from the National School of Political and Administrative Studies, specializing in International Relations.

Secretary General

Daniel Schwammenthal

Daniel Schwammenthal is the Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute and the Secretary General of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group. Before joining the AJC Transatlantic Institute, Mr. Schwammenthal worked for seven years as an editorial page writer and op-ed editor for The Wall Street Journal Europe in Brussels and Amsterdam, writing about EU politics and economics, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran, radical Islam and terrorism. Prior to that, Mr. Schwammenthal worked for six years as a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires in Bonn, Berlin and Brussels covering German and European politics, economics and regulatory affairs.

Mr. Schwammenthal studied political science and political economy at the University of Aachen and received an M.A. in international relations and international communication from Boston University and an L.L.M. in European law and policy from the University of Manchester.

Events

May 11, 2020

Transatlantic Dialogues (Part 2): Rep. Brian Mast and MEP Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou

Please join us for a Transatlantic Friends of Israel webinar on Monday, 11 May at 18:00 CET entitled "Transatlantic Dialogues (Part 2): Rep. Brian Mast and MEP Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou." Join us for the second...
May 06, 2020

Transatlantic Dialogues (Part 1): Rep. Ted Deutch and MEP Lukas Mandl

Please join us for a Transatlantic Friends of Israel webinar on Wednesday, 6 May at 18:00 CET entitled "Transatlantic Dialogues (Part 1): Rep. Ted Deutch and MEP Lukas Mandl." Relations between the United States and...
April 30, 2020

Europe and Hezbollah

The Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) caucus held its first webinar entitled “Europe and Hezbollah: A New EU Approach to Iran's Proxy.“ Moderator Daniel Schwammenthal discussed with TFI Chair and Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl, EU Parliament Vice President from Germany Nicola Beer, and Michael Doran from the Washington-based think tank Hudson Institute the significance of Berlin’s momentous decision, the prospects for the EU to follow suit, and a common transatlantic approach to Iran and its terror proxies.
November 19, 2019

Transatlantic Friends of Israel Breakfast Discussion

The Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group hosted Brigadier General (Res.) Assaf Orion, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, for a breakfast discussion on Israel’s geostrategic situation and the Jewish state’s multi-faceted security challenges. The exclusive audience included 35 cross-party MEPs and parliamentary advisors. H.E. Aharon Leshno-Yaar, Israel’s Ambassador to the EU, and Christina Tomlinson, Minister Counselor for Public Affairs of the U.S. Mission to the EU, also attended.
July 09, 2019

Launch of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel

The AJC Transatlantic Institute launched the inter-parliamentary Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group in the EU Parliament. TFI Chair Lukas Mandl, Austrian MEP (EPP), co-hosted the kick-off event with German MEP Dietmar Köster (S&D) and TFI Vice Chair MEP Frédérique Ries (Renew Europe) from Belgium. The standing-room only audience of some 60 people included 25 MEPs from 13 countries. TFI is the first-ever friendship caucus specifically committed to bolstering the trilateral partnership between the U.S., Israel, and Europe.

Media

18/05/2020

Video: Transatlantic Dialogues (Part 2): Rep. Brian Mast and MEP Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou

Watch part two of our newest series bringing together legislators from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the most pressing topics affecting transatlantic relations.

06/05/2020

Video: Transatlantic Dialogues (Part 1): Rep. Ted Deutch and MEP Lukas Mandl

Watch part one of our newest series bringing together legislators from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the most pressing topics affecting transatlantic relations.

30/04/2020

Germany’s Hezbollah Ban a Model for Europe?

After Germany’s decision last week to ban Hezbollah, the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) caucus held its first webinar entitled “Europe and Hezbollah: A New EU Approach to Iran's Proxy.“ Moderator Daniel Schwammenthal discussed with TFI Chair and Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl, EU Parliament Vice President from Germany Nicola Beer, and Michael Doran from the Washington-based think tank Hudson Institute the significance of Berlin’s momentous decision, the prospects for the EU to follow suit, and a common transatlantic approach to Iran and its terror proxies.

28/04/2020

TFI Statement on EU-Israel Cooperation to Battle Coronavirus

Brussels, 27 April 2020

The Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group calls for stronger EU-Israel and transatlantic cooperation on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world fights a deadly disease that knows no borders, it’s incumbent upon the family of Western...

28/02/2020

Austrian Parliament Condemns BDS

Quoted in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post, TFI Chair Lukas Mandl hailed the Austrian parliament's condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel: “The Austrian parliament’s historic decision today to condemn any boycotts of Israeli goods shows that Austria stands on the side of Israel – not half-heartedly, but with full conviction."

27/02/2020

Statement on Austrian Parliament's Anti-BDS Bill

Vienna, 27 February 2020 - The Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group welcomed the Austrian parliament’s condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, urging the Austrian government and other EU member states to heed the resolution’s call. Supported...

04/02/2020

Leading MEPs Call for EU Sanctions Against Iran

The Jerusalem Post reported that two leading lawmakers from the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) - the cross-party caucus promoting EU-Israel-U.S. ties - called for EU sanctions against the Iranian regime. Austrian MEP and TFI Chair Lukas Mandl said the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet killing all 176 on board crossed a “red line.” One of TFI’s Vice Chairs, Petras Auštrevičius of Lithuania, demanded Tehran be held accountable “for its terrorist activities that threaten also Europe and our key regional ally, Israel.”

12/11/2019

TFI Statement on EU Court of Justice Decision on Labeling

STATEMENT

Brussels, 12 November 2019

EU Court of Justice Decision on Labeling

We acknowledge today’s EU Court of Justice decision on EU labeling requirements for foodstuffs originating from beyond the 1948...

31/10/2019

Members of the European Parliament Visit Israel with AJC, Call for Association Council and EU Ban of Hezbollah

Jerusalem, 31 October 2019 - A leadership delegation of Members of the European Parliament associated with the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI), the inter-parliamentary...

22/07/2019

What’s TFI all about?

After the launch of the cross-party Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) in the EU Parliament, Counterpoint host Daniel Schwammenthal spoke with TFI Chair MEP Lukas Mandl and Vice Chair MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Renew Europe) from Lithuania about the group’s priorities, including upgrading the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a speedy convening of an Association Council, and overall stronger ties between Israel, Europe, and the U.S. on the basis of shared democratic values.

Pages

Transatlantic Declaration: The EU Must Ban Hezbollah

We, lawmakers from both sides of the Atlantic and united across party lines, call on the European Union to designate Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

Following the 2012 suicide bombing in Bulgaria that killed six people, the EU banned only...

TFI Press Release

11/05/2020

MEPs Condemn EU Funding for Terror-Linked Groups, Call for Review of Funding Rules

On 9 May 2020, the cross-party leadership of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) - MEPs Lukas Mandl, Anna Michelle Asimakopoulou, Petras Auštrevičius, Carmen Avram, Dietmar Köster, Germany, and Alexandr Vondra - issued an open letter to the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell...

30/04/2020

European and North American Lawmakers Call for Total EU Ban of Hezbollah

Brussels, 30 April 2020 - Spearheaded by the leadership of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI), 55 (and counting) lawmakers from the European Parliament, national parliaments in Europe, the United States Congress, and the Parliament of Canada called in a first-ever transatlantic and...

28/04/2020

TFI Statement on EU-Israel Cooperation to Battle Coronavirus

Brussels, 27 April 2020

The Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group calls for stronger EU-Israel and transatlantic cooperation on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the world fights a deadly disease that knows no borders, it’s incumbent upon the family of Western...

27/02/2020

Statement on Austrian Parliament's Anti-BDS Bill

Vienna, 27 February 2020 - The Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) group welcomed the Austrian parliament’s condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, urging the Austrian government and other EU member states to heed the resolution’s call. Supported...

12/11/2019

TFI Statement on EU Court of Justice Decision on Labeling

STATEMENT

Brussels, 12 November 2019

EU Court of Justice Decision on Labeling

We acknowledge today’s EU Court of Justice decision on EU labeling requirements for foodstuffs originating from beyond the 1948...

31/10/2019

Members of the European Parliament Visit Israel with AJC, Call for Association Council and EU Ban of Hezbollah

Jerusalem, 31 October 2019 - A leadership delegation of Members of the European Parliament associated with the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI), the inter-parliamentary...

TFI Coverage

14/05/2020

MEPs Push EU to Reconsider Funding to Terror-Linked Palestinian NGOs

MEPs Push EU to Reconsider Funding to Terror-Linked Palestinian NGOs

By Lahav Harkov

...

28/02/2020

Austrian Parliament Condemns BDS

Quoted in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post, TFI Chair Lukas Mandl hailed the Austrian parliament's condemnation of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel: “The Austrian parliament’s historic decision today to condemn any boycotts of Israeli goods shows that Austria stands on the side of Israel – not half-heartedly, but with full conviction."

04/02/2020

Leading MEPs Call for EU Sanctions Against Iran

The Jerusalem Post reported that two leading lawmakers from the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) - the cross-party caucus promoting EU-Israel-U.S. ties - called for EU sanctions against the Iranian regime. Austrian MEP and TFI Chair Lukas Mandl said the downing of the Ukrainian passenger jet killing all 176 on board crossed a “red line.” One of TFI’s Vice Chairs, Petras Auštrevičius of Lithuania, demanded Tehran be held accountable “for its terrorist activities that threaten also Europe and our key regional ally, Israel.”

Supporters

It is an honor to send greetings to the Transatlantic Friends of Israel, a new cross-party parliamentary friendship group dedicated to fostering strong transatlantic ties with Israel. Key foreign policy issues - including stalwart support for our allies in Europe and in Israel - traditionally enjoy bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. It is my hope that the Transatlantic Friends of Israel can work towards achieving the same unwavering support in Europe for the Jewish state.

Marco Rubio (R-FL), Member of the U.S. Senate
10/07/2019

As a long-time believer in the deepening of transatlantic ties and a staunch supporter of Israel, I was delighted to learn about AJC’s new Transatlantic Friends of Israel inter-parliamentary friendship group. With a clear set of common interests and values, this trilateral project could not have come soon enough. As this group continues to grow and expand, I look forward to working together to pursue our agenda of partnership and friendship.

Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-17), Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
10/07/2019