Eu-Israel: years of uncertain relationship

Employment and Social Affairs

Relations between EU and Israel could be considered very good, although characterized by some major open issue at the political level. The European Union, for example, expressed serious concern after U.S. President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying it could have repercussions for peace prospects. The EU has a mediation role as regard peace prospect in the Holy Places, promoting a two State solution that protect the rights both of Israel and Palestine.

“Yet we should all know that the two-state solution remains – I am profoundly convinced of this – the best and the only realistic chance for peace and also for security in the Holy Places”, said Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in her last speech at the EU Parliament before leaving the mandate to Joseph Borrel. “This is at the same time a principled and pragmatic position. Nobody has presented a credible alternative to two States so far. Many have argued against but nobody has expressed any clear view that can substitute that objective realistically. And any plan that is not firmly anchored in international law and, let me add, also in the profound aspirations and interests of the people – not only of Palestine and Israel but also of the region – would ultimately fail”, said Mogherini adding that “our support to the two States is a matter of international law, a matter of justice and democracy and also a matter of realism”. But it has to be highlighted that in recent years, Europe-Israel ties have deteriorated a lot and the EU position has weakened. The bilateral annual Association Council meetings have not convened for eight years and intergovernmental consultations between Israel and Europe’s major powers have been downgraded, suspended or stopped altogether; while restoring bilateral consultations, like periodic Association Council meetings, and maintaining tighter coordination with Jerusalem, would help a future Israeli governments in advancing true partnership across the Mediterranean. It has to be said that the new EU High representative Borrell, a Catalan socialist, was outspoken in his support for the Palestinians during his mandate as Spain’s foreign minister, even advocating for Madrid’s unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, and issuing public criticism of Israeli military actions in Gaza. Borrell will inherit a fractured European relationship with Israel, but for sure it is not in the EU’s interest to damage ties with Tel Aviv.
In any case we can say that Israel is an associated state of the European Union. The relations between the two are framed in the European Neighbourhood Policy, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and the Union for the Mediterranean. Although it is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, Israel, due to its advanced level of economic development, receives limited funding from the European Neighbourhood Instrument and those funds are predominantly used for the implementation of institutional Twinning projects. Through this Twinning projects, the EU supports the approximation of Israeli norms and standards in public administration to those of the EU. It offers the opportunity to share best European practice in numerous areas. The EU contribution to Twinning programmes in Israel under bilateral ENI allocations averages 1.8 million per year. On-going Twinning projects are in the areas of statistics, education and telecommunication. Furthermore, Israeli civil society organisations are also eligible for funding under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which aims at providing support to civil society initiatives that promote human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Israel also participates in the Erasmus+ programme for education, training, youth and sport, which funds academic and youth mobility as well as cooperation projects throughout the world. In addition, Israel is a full partner in the Horizon 2020 Research Programme with projects worth close to an estimated EUR 150 million per year in the period 2017-2020.

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