21st Sep 2019

EU waters down Middle East ceasefire call

After several hours of debate, EU foreign ministers have agreed to call for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" between Israel and Hezbollah - but France and Germany are already interpreting the statement differently.

The emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (1 August) saw lengthy discussions on the sensitive issue of whether to call for an immediate ceasefire between the two sides, an idea rejected by Israel and the US which want lasting security guarantees against Hezbollah first.

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

Siding with Jerusalem and Washington on the issue, the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Poland objected to a draft text by the Finnish EU presidency which urged an "immediate ceasefire" - wording which was strongly backed by France and Spain in particular.

Member states finally agreed on compromise wording saying "The [EU] council calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities to be followed by a sustainable ceasefire."

Asked about the difference between "cessation of hostilities" and "ceasefire," Finnish foreign ministers Erkki Tuomioja said "from the point of view of the people who are under threat, there is no difference."

France's Philippe Douste-Blazy, who had pressed for the term "immediate ceasefire," claimed victory on the text, asking "what is the difference between the immediate cessation of hostilities and an immediate ceasefire?"

But Germany, a traditional EU ally of France, notably distanced itself from Paris, with foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declaring "The cessation of hostilities is not the same as a ceasefire."

He described the cessation of hostilities as a step-by-step expansion of the 48-hour halt of air raids announced by Israel on Monday, in parallel with possible similar steps by Hezbollah.

"The signing of a ceasefire" could "only be reached later," he said describing such a move as an essentially political matter.

Solana in defence of Israel

German diplomats said the formula found on Monday unblocked the "dogmatic dispute" between France and the US over what should come first – a ceasefire or a political peace deal.

Another last-minute text change to the Finnish draft conclusions was made after an intervention by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, sources said.

Mr Solana insisted on having the text reflect that Hezbollah, and not Israel, started the hostilities.

The phrase saying "the council condemns the rocket attacks by Hezbollah on Israel" was moved up, and now appears before the condemnation of the death of innocent civilians and UN personnel through Israeli strikes.

A German diplomat said the textual change was important to "maintain some credibility with the Israelis."

EU troops

Member states further called for the UN security council to be "rapidly convened to define a political framework for a lasting solution agreed by all parties, which is a necessary precondition for deployment of an international force."

France, a permanent security council member, received EU ministers' backing for its draft UN resolution which says a UN force should be deployed after Israel and Lebanon have agreed "in principle" on a permanent ceasefire.

On the planned international force, the foreign ministers' conclusions state that "EU member states have indicated their readiness to contribute to such an operation together with international partners."

France, Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden and Denmark have said they are willing to provide troops, but the UK, Germany and the Netherlands have signalled they are already overburdened by peacekeeping operations elsewhere.


How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession

Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have demanded to open accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania this year, as Hungary's man prepares to take over the enlargement portfolio.

Just 5% of Europeans trust Trump

European voters believe that EU's foreign policies should be more coherent and effective in order to remain neutral in potential international conflicts, since most EU citizens no longer rely on the US security guarantee, according to a new report.

News in Brief

  1. Ireland: right Brexit deal is 'not yet close'
  2. UK secrecy on Brexit holds back wider EU talks
  3. Feminist mass protest in Spain after 19 murders this summer
  4. Global climate strike starts ahead of UN summit
  5. UK Brexit minister to meet Barnier on Friday
  6. Russia-Ukraine gas deal talks show 'progress'
  7. Nobel economist: Ireland 'not good EU citizen' on taxes
  8. Germany takes carbon border tax on board


These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.


Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Europe goes to New York This WEEK
  2. Nine EU 'commissioners' asked to clarify declarations
  3. Dismiss Italy's Salvini at your peril
  4. Malta PM accused of 'blackmail' over slain reporter
  5. Diplomats back Romania's Kovesi for EU top prosecutor
  6. Brexit raises questions for EU defence integration
  7. Low-carbon cities can unlock €21tn by 2050, report finds
  8. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us