Monday

3rd Oct 2022

EU gagged on 'fundamental' shift in Middle East

Three member states have gagged the EU on a "fundamental" shift in the Middle East - the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania vetoed an EU statement on Friday (11 May) ahead of the US embassy opening ceremony on Monday.

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

  • Settlers accelerating facts on the ground at "record" pace, EU report said (Photo: Rosie Gabrielle)

"Israel and the US are key allies for the Czech Republic. Seventy years ago, Czechoslovakia helped Israel in its struggle for independence and 100 years ago, the US helped Czechoslovakia emerge", Jiri Ovcacek, a spokesman for Czech president Milos Zeman, said.

"The Czech Republic protested against the planned [EU] statement. We appreciate that Hungary and Romania have taken the same principled stance," Ovcacek told the AFP news agency.

That left the other 25 EU countries to issue individual communiques, while reducing the EU reaction to a tweet by its mission in Tel Aviv, which said: "EU & its member states will continue to respect the international consensus on Jerusalem … including on the location of their diplomatic representations until the final status of Jerusalem is resolved".

Austria joined the Czechs, Hungarians, and Romanians in also sending their envoys to the US opening ceremony on Monday, leaving 24 EU states in Europe's boycott of the event.

The US move goes in the teeth of EU policy - that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of Israel and Palestine in a negotiated, two-state solution.

It represents the first "fundamental shift" in the Middle East peace process in 25 years, EU ambassadors in Israel and Palestine have said.

The EU should send out an "unequivocal … common message" on non-recognition of the US move, the European ambassadors said in an internal report, seen by EUobserver, in December.

But Monday's EU foreign policy fiasco was already foreshadowed later that month, when six EU states - Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Romania - boycotted EU support for a UN resolution against the US embassy relocation.

US president Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner led the White House delegation to the Jerusalem opening ceremony.

"Move your embassies to Jerusalem because it's the right thing to do," Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told them and other foreign dignitaries at an event in the city on Sunday.

The US decision recognised the "truth" that "under any peace agreement you could possibly imagine, Jerusalem will remain Israel's capital", he said.

Reality

John Bolton, Trump's national security advisor, echoed the Israeli leader. "Recognising reality always enhances the chances for peace," he told US media network ABC.

That reality was being accelerated at a "record" pace by Israeli settlement expansion, "including in areas identified by the EU and its member states as [being] key to the two-state solution", the EU ambassadors' internal report warned.

Israel advanced 3,000 more housing units in East Jerusalem last year, the report said, adding to the 215,000 settlers who have moved there since Israel conquered it in 1967.

"We will pray for the boundless potential of the US-Israel alliance & we will pray for peace," Ivanka Trump said ahead of her visit.

But the US decision "ended, from our point of view, the role of the United States as the broker, the owner, of the peace process," Nabil Shaath, an advisor to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, said.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania's veto of the EU statement would have consequences for "their relationship with the Arab and Islamic worlds," the Palestinian Authority's (PA) foreign ministry said.

The PA's rival Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, has called for protests on the Gaza border, which have already claimed 42 lives since March, to come to a head on Monday.

EU logistics

The US move will see just its ambassador and his small staff relocating from Tel Aviv to an existing US consular compound in Arnona, a neighbourhood in south Jerusalem.

The rest of its 850 embassy workers will stay in Tel Aviv until a new US embassy is built in Jerusalem in a project to take years to complete.

But Monday's move poses the question whether EU VIPs who go to Israel in future will boycott the new US mission.

High-level EU visits to the city should "ensure that logistics follow EU policy", the EU ambassadors' report said, among other guidelines on how to handle Trump's latest affront to Europe's world view.  

News in Brief

  1. Czechs warn joint-nationality citizens in Russia on mobilisation
  2. Greece to unveil proposal for capping EU gas prices
  3. Four dead, 29 missing, after dinghy found off Canary Islands
  4. Orbán: German €200bn shield is start of 'cannibalism in EU'
  5. Lithuania expels top Russian diplomat
  6. Poland insists on German WW2 reparations
  7. Russia halts gas supplies to Italy
  8. Bulgaria risks hung parliament after inconclusive vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. EU wants probe into alleged Nagorno-Karabakh war crimes
  2. EU officials were warned of risk over issuing financial warning
  3. EU debates national energy plans amid calls for more coordination
  4. What Modi and Putin’s ‘unbreakable friendship’ means for the EU
  5. EU leaders have until Friday for refugee resettlement pledges
  6. Cities and regions stand with citizens and SMEs ahead of difficult winter
  7. Editor's weekly digest: A week of leaks
  8. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us