Saturday

23rd Feb 2019

Ashton shows pro-Palestinian side at EU parliament

  • Ashton. Pro-Israeli EU countries say she is not a neutral broker (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton showed her pro-Palestinian sympathies at the European Parliament on Tuesday (27 September) as MEPs get set to back the UN upgrade.

She began the meeting in Strasbourg with a formal statement against Israel's new decision to build 1,100 Jewish housing units on Palestinian land at its Gilo settlement.

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 plan should be reversed. Settlement activity threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution and runs contrary to the Israeli stated commitment to resume negotiations," she said.

She later added on a personal note: "I have condemned settlement activity every time it was announced - I have made six statements this year, plus one Quartet [a joint EU, Russia, UN and US body] statement plus the comment today ... Each time I have met him [Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu] I have told him settlements are illegal under international law."

She also praised Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad: "They are people who hold the values we hold dear in their hearts. They believe in the values we hold ... I believe Israel could do no better than negotiate with them."

Pro-Israeli countries such as the Netherlands have said Ashton is not a neutral broker in talks on whether the EU should back Palestine's bid to join the UN. Her own officials say she was deeply affected by Palestinian hardships on recent visits to Gaza and the West Bank.

MEPs will on Thursday vote on a draft resolution which says the EU assembly: "Supports and calls on member states to be united in addressing the legitimate demand of the Palestinian people to be represented as a state at the United Nations."

The text already has the backing of the socialist, liberal, green and far-left groups. The language is designed to accommodate various opinions - socialists say Palestine should get full UN membership, while liberals say they should become a "non-member state."

The biggest group, the centre-right EPP, is still making up its mind. But senior EPP figures, such as German deputy Hans-Gert Poettering and Dutch member Ria Oomen-Ruijten, spoke up for Palestine in the plenary debate.

Meanwhile, EU countries have voiced clear divisions at the UN in New York over the past week. Ten (Belgium, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) are on the pro-upgrade side. Five (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania and the UK) have indicated they would vote No. The rest are keeping quiet.

"Provocative of Israel to announce new settlements in East Jerusalem now. Clearly contrary to Middle East peace Quartet demand," Swedish foreign minister Carl Bldt tweeted on Tuesday.

For his part, Netanyahu in an interview with the Jerusalem Post the same day showed little interest in what the EU thinks. "We plan in Jerusalem. We build in Jerusalem. Period. The same way Israeli governments have been doing for years - since the end of the 1967 war," he said.

EU opinions multiply on Palestinian UN upgrade

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. May to meet Tusk on Sunday at Arab summit
  2. Report: Russia offered Italy's Salvini €3m for EU election
  3. EU and US could 'quickly' clinch mini-trade pact
  4. Belgium to gather evidence on Syria 'foreign fighters'
  5. Dozens of Tory and Labour MPs threatening to quit over Brexit
  6. UK will struggle on free-trade deals, EU says
  7. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  8. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Brexit and Orban in spotlight This WEEK
  2. Swedish activist urges EU to double climate goals
  3. EP budget chair seeks clarity on Saudi lobbying and College of Europe
  4. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  5. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  6. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  7. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  8. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us