European MPs to Ashton: Make Israel pay for settlements

A total of 114 members of the European Parliament signed and delivered an open letter to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton Thursday to ensure she implements the EU guidelines on Israeli settlements, scheduled to take effect next month, January 2014.

The guidelines stipulate that any Israeli entity that wants to receive funding and loans, participate in a project or compete for grants or awards given by foundations or agencies of the EU will have to submit a statement declaring that they have no direct link to the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights – all territories Israel occupied in 1967 and which the EU does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over.

While it was originally understood that this meant the EU would require Israel to stop all operations beyond the Green Line if it wanted to continue to benefit from cooperation, it became clear that the guidelines are trying to make sure that specific European grants and prizes are not part of projects in the occupied territories.

Click here for everything you need to know about the EU guidelines

Since the guidelines were announced in July, Israeli government officials have been scrambling to combat the effort, negotiating with EU representatives to try and find a “compromise” – essentially a way to get around the restrictions. Israel is specifically concerned about its ability to join the Horizon 2020 program – an $80 billion research program that just passed in European Parliament today (Thursday) –  that would provide Israeli institutions with around 600 million euro over the next seven years  for various technology and research projects.

As Noam Sheizaf reported here last month, Israel is trying to find a way so that as long as an Israeli entity is headquartered behind the Green Line, it will still get EU funding, even if it has operations in the occupied West Bank. This is exactly what the EU members who signed on to this letter are trying to prevent.

According to an adviser in the EU parliament who prefers to remain nameless, Israeli negotiators have already succeeded in removing any mention of the guidelines in the Memorandum of Understanding being negotiated right now, potentially undermining the entire purpose of the guidelines.

“If EU funds end up in settlements, the EU loses. Plain and simple. If Israel manages to continue business as usual despite the guidelines and settlements continue to receive EU funds, then EU leaders look very weak. Yet again.”

Here is a portion of the letter sent today to Ashton (the full letter is below):

Dear High Representative,

We are writing to call your attention to certain serious concerns regarding the arrangements about to be concluded that will determine the terms of Israel’s participation in a range of EU programmes, including Horizon 2020. We wish to call on you to take the steps that remain necessary to ensure that no form of EU-funded support is provided to Israeli entities established in the settlements, which are illegal under international law, or to activities or operations of Israeli entities taking place in those settlements under any of these programmes.

As an ENP country, Israel is entitled to participate in a range of EU programmes, including Horizon 2020. The Guidelines published by the Commission on 19th July 2013 should apply to all these programmes, current and future.

In all cases, the EU must respect its own positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the Union of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since June 1967. In all cases, no EU-funded support of any kind may be provided to Israeli entities established in Israeli settlements or to settlement-based activities. (Emphasis mine).

MEP Margrete Auken, a member of the Greens in in the EP and vice-chair of the Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council, described the impetus for the letter to +972: “When we noticed the potential legal loophole we decided to send an open letter to Catherine Ashton who must take action to ensure that EU funds don’t end up in settlements.

“Israeli negotiators are tough and clever, said Auken, “and Catherine Ashton needs to know she has the support from the European Parliament to hold her own and stay alert. The world community again and again declares Israeli settlements illegal. Now we need action behind the words so Israel feels the consequences of breaking international law time and again.”

In effect, these members of parliament are asking the EU to simply follow through on a policy that has been their formal position for decades – just like the U.S.

Read the full letter: