22nd Mar 2023

Israel takes bashing in EU foreign relations audit

Progress on upgrading EU-Israel relations will remain frozen until Israel takes steps to repair the peace process with Palestinians, the European Commission indicated on Thursday (23 April).

"We do not believe the time is right to go beyond the current level of relations," external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Brussels during an annual stock-taking of the union's ties with its neighbours.

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

  • Gaza after Operation Cast Lead: The strip remains closed to reconstruction (Photo: Oxfam)

"We expect a clear commitment from the new [Israeli] government to pursue negotiations with the Palestinians. We expect a stop of all activities undermining our objective of a two-state solution and this includes in particular settlement expansion, which is continuing on daily basis."

"The ball is now in the court of Israel."

The EU in December 2008 started talks on the upgrade, which was to include regular bilateral summits and trade perks for Israel. But Israel's launch of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza later the same month, costing the lives of 415 Palestinian children, halted the process.

The Portuguese and Belgian foreign ministers at an EU meeting in March indicated they would veto any re-start of the upgrade until concerns were met. Swedish diplomats delivered the same message in Israel earlier this month.

Ordinary Israeli Jews feel strongly positive about the EU, despite the diplomatic friction.

Seventy-five percent said they would like Israel to join the 27-country bloc in a fresh poll conducted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. Forty percent of Israeli Arabs would also like the country to join.

Accession is unlikely to happen due to Article 49 of the EU treaty if nothing else, which states that any "European state" meeting certain criteria is eligible to apply.

The EU in 1987 rejected Morocco's application on geographic grounds. When asked about Israel's eligibility by EUobserver, the commission said in a statement: "The term 'European' combines geographical, historical and cultural elements which all contribute to European identity ...[which] is subject to review by each succeeding generation."

Meanwhile, Israeli diplomats are taking a hard-headed approach to European relations. A senior diplomatic source on Thursday told Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper that national security is guaranteed "first of all [by] us, then the United States, and the third leg is Europe."

2008 bad for democracy

The European Commission's spring audit of development in the other 15 countries covered by the "neighbourhood policy" broadly found that 2008 was a good year for the economy, but a poor one for democracy.

"On balance however, we have to note, unfortunately, that the pace of reforms indeed has slowed particularly on democratic reforms, governance and human rights standards," Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner said.

In the south, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt emerged as the most progressive states. Ukraine, Georgia and - ironically, given the April 2009 crisis - Moldova last year led the class in the east.

The stock-taking also showed up the deep differences in the group of countries placed into the neighbourhood policy basket back in 2004, with Ukraine and the EU working on nuclear decommissioning while Egypt struggles to curb female genital mutilation.

"The European Neighbourhood Policy remains as relevant as ever," Ms Ferrero-Waldner said.

EU Commission in damage control over Qatar-paid flights

The European Commission is imposing new rules to restrict free trips paid for by countries like Qatar, following revelations that its director-general of transport not only accepted such flights — but had also cleared himself of any conflict of interest.


Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown

Turkey goes to the polls in May for both a new parliament and new president, after incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided against a post-earthquake postponement. The parliamentary outcome is easy to predict — the presidential one less so.


When geopolitics trump human rights, we are all losers

The EU must back the UN's Human Rights 75 initiative at the end of the year to rekindle the spirit of the original declaration made in 1948 — and also demand a similar recommitment from all its 27 members.

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament joins court case against Hungary's anti-LGBTI law
  2. Three French MEPs to stay on election-observation blacklist
  3. Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown
  4. When geopolitics trump human rights, we are all losers
  5. EU starts talks on 11th round of Russia sanctions
  6. EU fears Tunisia turmoil will spark migrant boat departures
  7. 'Symbolic' Putin indictment gets some EU backing
  8. 'Final warning' to act on climate change, warns IPCC

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us