Following calls to postpone, modify or even suspend the new European Commission guidelines on the funding of Israeli businesses and institutions in the occupied territories, a group of European dignitaries has sent a letter to the 28 EU Foreign Ministers, urging them to fully support European institutions in implementing guidelines that exclude Israel’s illegal settlements from EU funding.
The letter has been signed by 21 prominent Europeans – amongst them eight former Foreign Ministers, four former Prime Ministers, one former Vice-President of the European Commission and one former EU High Representative – from 10 European countries, including the UK, France, Germany and Ireland.
The signatories stress that the guidelines reflect the EU’s long-held position that the European Union will not recognize unilateral changes to Israel’s pre-1967 borders and that the EU, under its own legislation, is obligated to prevent the application of agreements with Israel to illegal settlements.
The statement’s signatories call on the 28 Foreign Ministers to uphold their joint commitment, proclaimed in December 2012, to ensure that all agreements between Israel and the EU “must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability” to the occupied territories, also and especially in regard to the ongoing negotiations about Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020, the EU’s research funding programme. Also, the signatories argue that a delay or suspension of the guidelines would undermine peace negotiations, which they want to see succeed.
The letter is posted below and was sent in the context of the European Eminent Persons Group (EEPG), composed of former Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers and senior officials of EU Member States, who have decided to concert their efforts to encourage a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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Dear Foreign Minister,
With great concern we have taken note of recent calls to delay, modify or even suspend the European Commission guidelines on funding of Israeli entities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, developed in furtherance of the clear EU Foreign Affairs Council position adopted on 10 December 2012:
“The European Union expresses its commitment to ensure that – in line with international law – all agreements between the State of Israel and the European Union must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967.”
We urge you to uphold this commitment by supporting the guidelines and their full application by EU institutions, notably in regard to the on-going negotiations about Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020.
In recent weeks, Israel has expressed strong objections to the guidelines. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said: “We will not accept any external dictates regarding our borders.” This both misrepresents the EU position and the international legal consensus regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As EU High Representative Catherine Ashton stated, in no way will the guidelines prejudge the outcome of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The guidelines rather reflect the EU’s long-held position that the settlements are illegal and that the Union will not recognize changes to the pre-1967 borders other than agreed by both parties. Their strict application serves to re-iterate that the EU does not recognize and will not support settlements and other illegal facts on the ground that increasingly dictate a unilateral reality inimical to a two state agreement. It is these facts on the ground, not the guidelines, which threaten to make a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.
The Palestinians have agreed to enter negotiations without explicit Israeli or US guarantees that these negotiations will be based on the pre-1967 borders. As you will recall, the guidelines’ release in mid-July was an important incentive for the Palestinians to agree to a resumption of direct talks without such explicit guarantees. If the EU were to delay or suspend the guidelines, or not fully apply them to the agreement with Israel on Horizon 2020, this could further undermine the Palestinians’ trust in the negotiation process and their ability to continue the talks. In other words, delaying or suspending the guidelines is likely to undermine negotiations, which we want to see succeed, not help them.
Furthermore, political considerations aside, the EU is obligated under its own existing law to effectively prevent the application of its agreements and programmes to illegal settlements outside Israel's recognised borders. In fact, the guidelines are the required minimum for the EU to fully and effectively implement its own legislation and to prevent its taxpayers’ money from being used to support activities in settlements.
We welcome your efforts in the Middle East Peace Process and fully support the EU’s goal of a negotiated two-state solution. A delay or suspension of the guidelines won’t help achieve this solution. On the contrary, it would undermine the negotiations by alienating the Palestinians and by reinforcing Israel’s intransigence. In addition, it would damage the EU’s credibility and erode its vital foundations as a law-based community.
We urge you to be steadfast and support EU institutions in fully applying the guidelines.
Members of the European Eminent Persons Group:
Frans Andriessen, former Vice-President of the European Commission
Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, former Vice-Prime Minister of the Netherlands
John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland
Roland Dumas, former Foreign Minister of France and former President of the Constitutional Council
Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, former Foreign Minister of Denmark
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, former European Commissioner for External Relations and Former Foreign Minister of Austria
Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Ambassador to the UN; Co-Chair of the EEPG
Teresa Patricio Gouveia, former Foreign Minister of Portugal
Lena Hjelm-Wallén, former Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden
Wolfgang Ischinger, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Germany and current Chairman of the Munich Security Conference; Co-Chair of the EEPG
Alain Juppé, former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister of France
Miguel Moratinos, former Foreign Minister of Spain and former EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process
Ruprecht Polenz, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag and former Secretary-General of the CDU
Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of France
Pierre Schori, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden
Clare Short, former UK Secretary of State for International Development
Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy and Former NATO Secretary-General
Peter Sutherland, former EU Commissioner for Competition and former Director-General of the World Trade Organization
Andreas Van Agt, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Hans Van den Broek, former Foreign Minister of the Netherlands and Former EU Commissioner for External Relations
Hubert Védrine, former Foreign Minister of France; Co-Chair of the EEPG
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