Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Sweden breaks EU ranks to recognise Palestine

  • Lofven (c) addressed the Swedish parliament on Friday

The new left-wing government in Sweden has promised to recognise Palestine, amid EU criticism of Israel’s latest settlement expansion.

The Swedish PM, Stefan Lofven, made the pledge at his inauguration speech in parliament on Friday (3 October).

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

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved by a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law. It must guarantee both the Palestinians and Israelis' legitimate demands for national sovereignty and security”, he said.

“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine”.

The step is the first ever by a sitting member of the EU.

Six former Communist EU countries, as well as Cyprus and Malta, recognised Palestine in the 1980s before they joined the European Union.

But their pre-EU policies have little meaning today: When Palestine asked the UN in 2012 to recognise it as an “observer state” the Czech Republic was the only EU country which voted No despite recognising its sovereignty in 1988.

Fourteen others voted in favour, while the rest abstained in a sign of ongoing division in the bloc.

Lofven’s announcement caught both Swedish and EU diplomats by surprise.

A Swedish source told this website it “marks a really big shift in the Social-Democratic party”. An EU contact said Palestine has stepped up its “lobbying campaign” in Europe: “They had hoped that France would take the step after [Palestinian] president Abbas visited Paris last month, but this didn’t happen”.

The Swedish move came the same day the EU published a statement criticising Israel’s plan to build thousands of new settler homes in East Jerusalem.

The EU communique used forceful language - “condemned” - and said “development of relations between the EU and Israel will depend on the latter's engagement towards a lasting peace”.

Some analysts saw it as a sign of impending action.

But the EU contact said it is not. “The wording is not new and was taken from recent [EU] Council conclusions”, he said.

The European Commission is currently drafting a code for EU retail labels on settler exports, but the work is still ongoing.

It recently banned exports of settler milk and poultry products saying Israeli food safety authorities, which certify the goods, have no jurisdiction in Palestine. But this is part of a tidying-up process of existing EU law rather than a political sanction.

The new settlements mark the first expansion in East Jerusalem for more than 10 years.

The EU source said one set of settler homes, in Silwan, is “very sensitive” because it is in the Holy Basin - a part of the old city which hosts Jewish and Muslim sacred sites.

A second bloc, in Givat Hamatos, “greatly diminishes” prospects of a two-state solution because it helps enclose Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides as their capital, in a ring of Jewish-only suburbs.

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us