Tuesday

13th Nov 2018

EU opinions multiply on Palestinian UN upgrade

  • The potential UN vote on Palestine's status could end up splitting the EU and causing a clash with the US in what diplomats are calling a 'train wreck' (Photo: tomdz)

Five EU countries have joined France in saying the UN should upgrade Palestine's status. Three have joined the UK in saying No. Others fall in between the two camps or are staying out of the debate for now.

Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain in their UN General Assembly speeches over the weekend joined France in backing the upgrade.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"This session may be remembered as the one in which the general assembly granted Palestine the status of a non-member observer state. This decision could be supported by Spain," Spanish foreign minister Trinidad Jimenez said in New York on Saturday (24 September).

Her speech was marked by a defence of Israel as a Jewish state, however - a red line for Palestinians who say that one fifth of Israeli citizens are Arabs and that Palestinian refugees in neighbouring countries should have the right of return.

"I wish to underline Spain's commitment to the state of Israel as the embodiment of the project to create a homeland for the Jewish people," she said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho backed the upgrade unconditionally. Belgian foreign minister Steven Vanackere said Palestine "has now reached a level of statehood the world cannot ignore." Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn and his Greek counterpart Stavros Lambrinidis went even further, saying Palestine's appeal to get full UN membership must "be heard" and "respected."

In a second group, Finland, Malta and Sweden did not explicitly back an upgrade but underlined Palestine's rights and its institutional readiness for statehood while criticising Israeli settlement-building.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Italy joined the UK and the US in the anti-upgrade camp.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini told the UN: "We continue to strongly back the American efforts" to restart peace talks with no change in Palestine's UN status. Czech President Vaclav Klaus said "I agree with [US] President Obama."

Bulgarian foreign minister Nickolay Mladenov was confusing. On one hand he criticised Palestine's "unilateral" UN bid and supported Israel as a Jewish state. But on the other, he noted that Bulgaria already recognised Palestinian independence in 1988.

Most of the other member states who spoke over the weekend - Austria, Cyprus and former Communist EU countries - did not take a position. The group, many of which are more interested in EU-Russia relations than the Middle East, instead repeated generalities about a two-state solution or said nothing on the subject.

Germany and the Netherlands (traditionally pro-Israeli), Ireland and Denmark (pro-Palestinian) as well as Romania have not yet spoken at the UN event.

The EU's Catherine Ashton is trying to avoid a UN vote on the upgrade by promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks based on a timetable agreed by the Quartet - the EU, Russia, the UN and the US. Almost every EU country paid lip service to her official role as the union's foreign policy chief by wishing the Quartet well.

The Quartet plan has suffered two early knock-backs, however.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Sunday after returning home to a hero's welcome he cannot accept it because it does not call for a freeze on Israeli settlements. And Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said it is a "failure" because it is skewed in Israel's favour.

Polls show EU support for Palestinian bid

A strong majority of people in three large EU countries - France, Germany and the UK - have said their governments should vote in favour of Palestine's UN bid.

EU to celebrate Shalit swap despite concerns

The EU is set to cheer the German-orchestrated release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, expected on Tuesday, despite concerns it could pave the way for military strikes on Hamas and Iran.

Unesco vote highlights EU split on Palestine

Just five EU countries voted "No" on admitting Palestine to the UN heritage agency, Unesco, in an indication of loyalties on the big question of UN membership.

News in Brief

  1. Draft Brexit deal on London cabinet agenda on Wednesday
  2. EU proposes no visa for UK citizens after Brexit
  3. EU parliament 'deeply concerned' on Romania judiciary
  4. Macedonia's ex-PM flees to Hungary, seeks asylum
  5. Cyprus opens first new border crossings in eight years
  6. Putin's Austrian dance partner cancels Moscow visit
  7. Political deadlock over Sweden Democrat influence
  8. Court: Catalan referendum organisers must repay costs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  2. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  3. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  4. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey
  5. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency
  6. EU warns Romania not to abuse GDPR against press
  7. EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name
  8. Fear of nationalist surge marks European memorials

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us