Sunday

25th Sep 2016

EU-Israel talks fail to agree on science funding

EU and Israeli negotiators in Brussels on Thursday (12 September) failed to agree on new funding rules, but identified "options" on making them easier for Israel to swallow.

The talks, involving dozens of officials and diplomats from both sides, centred on Israel's participation in Horizon 2020.

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  • Neurons: staying out of EU science projects would harm Israel, the petition says (Photo: wellcome images)

The EU's €80 billion science scheme runs from 1 January 2014 for seven years.

But Israel has said it will not take part under new rules, published in July, which oblige its firms and institutions to sign documents saying EU money will not fund activity on occupied land.

The European Commission noted on Thursday that "each side will go back to consult and check the various options discussed today," with a view to holding more talks "as soon as possible."

An earlier meeting between EU and Israeli diplomats in Jerusalem on Tuesday also failed to reach agreement.

But an EU spokeswoman said the Jerusalem talks were "fruitful" and that both sides "expressed their willingness to find solutions."

For his part, the Greek ambassador to Israel, Spiros Lampridis, told Israeli daily the Jerusalem Post he sympathises with his host country.

"If I put myself in the Israeli shoes I can see why they are not able to sign it … our task as European states is to find alternatives to make this thing workable," he said.

Israel has lobbied EU foreign ministries and the US state department to make Brussels postpone the measures.

It says it cannot sign EU grant papers saying East Jerusalem, for example, is part of Palestine at the same time as negotiating final borders with Palestine in ongoing peace talks.

US secretary of state John Kerry urged EU ministers at a meeting in Vilnius last Saturday to put off the rules.

But his appeal had limited impact.

When EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton briefed ambassadors in the EU's political and security committee in Brussels on Monday, "she said there is no suggestion of changing the EU's policy," an EU diplomat told this website.

The EU estimates that 0.3 percent, or €2.5 million, of the €800-million-or-so it paid to Israel in 2007 to 2013 funded settler activity.

But under old rules it has no way to claim the money back even though it violates the EU position on Israel's borders.

Meanwhile, Israeli opinion is split on the subject.

In July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We will not accept any external dictates regarding borders."

But on Wednesday over 600 Israeli intellectuals, former officials and activists, including Netanyahu's sister-in-law Ofra Ben-Artzi, sent a petition to EU officials urging them not to give way.

They said Israel's threat to stay out of Horizon 2020 is a "tactical manoeuvre," which would be "to Israel’s own great detriment" if it follows through.

EU rushing to ratify climate agreement

Environment ministers will try to agree next week to speed up the process to sign up to the Paris agreement. Otherwise it would not be present at the table of the signatories at a conference in November.

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