19th Sep 2019

EU plans to hold talks with Hamas cause divisions

EU foreign ministers meeting in Finland agreed that the bloc should take the lead in reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process – but member states are divided over plans to hold talks with the Palestinian Hamas movement.

Finnish foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja said after informal discussions in the lakeside town of Lappeenranta on Friday (1 September) that ministers had demonstrated "very big unanimity" on the need for the EU to be "engaged" in the Middle East.

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

Ministers agreed that after a summer of intense violence in Lebanon, the bloc should take the lead in refocusing attention on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana declaring before the talks that "I insist that we have to go back to the central theme."

With the EU providing almost half of the troops in the UN's Lebanon force, the time is now ripe for the Europeans to push for a broader peace settlement in the region, diplomats said.

"The Americans are focused on the November elections in Iraq. They are not very engaged in the Israeli-Palestinian issue," said one source.

"There is a general feeling that the EU is now the central player and that there is a new window of opportunity," Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot said, adding that the EU as largest cash provider to the Palestinians should be a "player not only a payer."

Divisions on Hamas

But behind the façade of unity on a more assertive EU role, important divisions exist on what strategy the bloc should follow towards the Islamist Hamas group which been leading the Palestinian government since it won elections earlier this year - but which also figures on the EU's list of terrorist groups.

Just before the talks on Thursday, Mr Tuomioja appeared to propose a major EU policy change towards Hamas by suggesting that the bloc should open contact with the movement, telling German daily Financial Times Deutschland "Hamas is not the same party it was before the elections."

On Friday, however, Mr Tuomioja appeared to backtrack by saying that "we have not changed our policy," adding that the EU would stick to its line that it will only talk with Hamas if it recognises Israel, renounces violence and respects past agreements.

But Mr Bot indicated that the line towards Hamas is under discussion, telling reporters that "I see a shift towards the idea that we should include them [Hamas] in the game."

"But here I am tough. As far as the Netherlands is concerned they should recognise [Israel] first," he added.

EU diplomats said that the possible formation of a Palestinian government of national unity, composed of both Hamas and the moderate Fatah movement of president Mahmud Abbas, could open the door for contacts with Hamas.

"Whenever the government of national unity comes about, we will talk to them," said one contact explaining that such a government would have to be agreed upon by president Abbas - who supports the EU conditions put on Hamas.

Hopes are being put on more moderate forces within Hamas, who in June endorsed a document which supports the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel drawn up together with the rival Fatah faction.

Is the roadmap dead?

Meanwhile, ministers were not sure either how to deal with the 2003 Road Map, a plan agreed by international powers including the EU to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Mr Tuomioja said that "we do not need to reinvent the wheel. We have the Road Map," but Mr Bot said that the plan has meanwhile become "a bit broke."

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that during travels in the Middle East he got the impression that "referring to the roadmap is not very credible," but he added the EU should continue to work with elements of the plan.


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. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  2. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving
  3. Trump's UK ambassador stirs up anti-EU feeling
  4. Brexit chaos is lesson to other EU states, ECB governor says
  5. EU condemns Israel's latest land grab
  6. Scotland to keep some laws aligned with EU after Brexit
  7. Spain to hold fresh election in November
  8. Turkey ups pressure on visa-free entry into EU


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. A new Commission for the one percent
  2. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  3. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  4. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  5. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  6. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission
  7. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  8. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

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