24th Oct 2016

Danish parliament to vote on Palestine recognition

  • The parties behind the motion have just 25 out of 179 seats in the Folketinget (Photo: Peter Leth)

Danish MPs are to vote on a resolution instructing the government to recognise Palestine, but Denmark's foreign minister says the time is not right.

The motion was introduced by deputies from three small left-wing parties: the Red-Green Alliance; the Socialist People’s Party; and Greenland’s Inuit Ataqatigiit.

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“The parliament directs the government to recognise Palestine as an independent and sovereign state within pre-1967 borders and, by extension, [to] provide the state of Palestine with full diplomatic rights”, the draft text says.

The Danish assembly is to hold a first debate on 11 December and to vote on a final text in early January.

Holger K. Nielsen, one of the MPs behind the initiative, doesn’t fancy its chances.

“I don’t think we’ll get a majority, but at least we’ll have a good discussion”, he told EUobserver on Monday (24 November).

He noted that if it does get through, the government is not legally obliged to comply but would find it “impossible” to say No in political terms.

Nielsen, a former foreign minister, said he was “inspired” by Sweden’s recent decision to recognise Palestine.

He added that EU recognitions could be “a tool” to help restart peace talks: “It would give the Palestinians a better position in the negotiations, or, at least, a less unequal position”.

But Denmark’s current foreign minister, Martin Lidegaard, disagrees.

“The positions of member states [on Palestine recogntion] are evolving. This, in my view, makes sense as the peace process is not showing any progress”, he told this website.

“Denmark will also come to recognise Palestine, but the timing has to be right”.

He urged the EU to take joint steps against Israeli settlements instead.

“Israel continues to, unacceptably, expand the illegal settlements and thus de facto undermines the possibilities for a two-state solution", he said.

"The chances of bringing together the EU and actually influencing the conflict would be greater if we consider further action against the settlements”.

For its part, Israel says settlements are “not a hurdle” to peace.

It also says European recognitions harm the peace process.

Michal Weiler-Tal, a spokeswoman for Israel’s EU embassy, told EUobserver: “Recognition at this stage without direct talks between the two sides only pushes them further apart … it [sends] the wrong message - that negotiations are futile”.

“This damages the EU image in Israeli public opinion”.

The Danish resolution comes amid a series of similar votes in Europe.

The British, Irish, and Spanish parliaments recently urged their governments to recognise Palestine.

The European Parliament will vote on Thursday, while French MPs are to vote on Friday or next Tuesday (2 December).

Echoing Lidegaard, one EU diplomat told this website that even if other EU governments follow Sweden it is unlikely to have much impact.

“There was a lot of excitement back in the 1980s when [the late Palestinian leader] Arafat was threatening to proclaim a unilateral declaration of independence [UDI]”, the diplomat said.

“More than 130 countries have now recognised Palestine. But little has changed on the ground, and the whole UDI issue has lost significance”.

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