Tuesday

16th Aug 2022

Unesco vote highlights EU split on Palestine

  • The Unesco HQ in Paris. Its director said the US funding decision could destabilise its budget (Photo: French Disko)

Just five EU countries voted "No" on admitting Palestine to the UN heritage agency, Unesco, in an indication of loyalties on the big question of UN membership.

The Czech Republic, Lithuania, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden voted against the move at the Paris-based agency on Monday (31 October).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Spain voted Yes. Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and the UK abstained.

Amid wide support from Muslim, African and Latin American countries, Palestine won the vote by 107 to 14 with 52 abstentions.

The US and Israel said in response to the development they will stop funding Unesco. The move will cost the body, which sponsors science projects and protects heritage sites, $90 million a year - more than a fifth of its income. "I am worried about the stability of its budget," Unesco chief Irina Bokova noted.

For his part, Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki said the vote is "in no way linked to our request to join the United Nations."

But the result is an indication of how EU countries might vote in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on upgrading Palestine's status to a "non-member state" like the Vatican. It also highlights divisions in EU foreign policy, with the bloc's three main powers - France, Germany and the UK - each voting a different way.

Palestine applied for full UN membership in September in a bid to protect its territory from Israeli settlements.

The application is doomed because it has no majority in the UN Security Council. Even if it did, the US would veto it. But a UNGA-level upgrade to a "non-member state" would be a diplomatic victory and would give Palestine new rights, such as bringing cases against Israel to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The EU's official position is that Israel and Palestine should resume peace talks.

Israel in the past two months authorised thousands of new homes for Jews on Palestinian land, however. Its foreign minister has launched verbal attacks on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Its recent firefight with the Gaza-based militants of Islamic Jihad also bodes ill.

Meanwhile, the new settlements are deepening Israel's isolation.

German press reported on Monday that Berlin has threatened to stop delivery of a Dolphin class submarine, capable of firing nuclear missiles, to the Jewish state over its plan to build new homes in the Gilo settlement in East Jerusalem.

EU and US criticise Israel ahead of UN showdown

The EU, Russia, the US and the UN have spoken out against Israel's decision to create more houses for Jews on Palestinian land ahead of a UN vote on Palestine's future.

EU opinions multiply on Palestinian UN upgrade

Five EU countries have joined France in saying the UN should upgrade Palestine's status. Three have joined the UK in saying No. Others fall in between the two camps or are staying out of the debate for now.

Palestine fed up with waiting for EU common position

Palestine's ambassador to the EU has said Mahmoud Abbas will on Friday ask the UN Security Council for full UN membership despite last-minute British, French and US warnings not to go ahead.

Interview

Palestine's UN upgrade coming back on EU agenda

The EU should get ready for Palestine's renewed push to upgrade its UN status and stop calling for "illusory" peace talks with Israel, a senior Palestinian politician has said.

Opinion

Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy

The Belgian parliament's recent decision to ratify its prisoner-exchange treaty with Iran is a grave mistake, and one which exemplifies the many downfalls of dealing with Iran's human-rights abuses on a case-by-case basis.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists
  2. Iran responds to EU's 'final text' on nuclear deal
  3. Model minority myths
  4. EU must make public who really owns its fishing fleets
  5. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis
  6. Europe's wildfire destruction set to hit new record
  7. How Putin and Erdoğan are making the West irrelevant
  8. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us