CEPS Membership Meeting, Brussels
Reported by Casey Carr, EPMED Contributor
A panel moderated by CEPS Visiting Fellow Umut Uzer discussed the future balance in the relationship between the European Union and Israel following the EU’s decision to require the labelling of products from occupied Palestinian territories by Israeli companies passed last November 2015. Among the participants of the discussion were the Minister and Deputy Chief for the Mission of Israel to the EU and NATO, Shuli Davidovich, the Director for the Middle East and North Africa region of the EEAS, Christian Berger, and assistant to the Middle East Desk of the Flemish organisation Pax Christi and Broederlijk Delen, Brigitte Herremans.
Mr Berger reasserted the EU’s continued strategy for fighting anti-semitism, supporting antiterrorism and countering violent extremism across Europe and Israel. He reasserted the valued role the EU plays in Israel’s economy, even as it works more closely with Iran, which continues to grow as a regional player. The EU continues to be Israel’s biggest trading partner, as well as in research in science and aviation fields, where the EU contributes funds to help build both Israeli and Palestinian institutions. Both Ms Herremans and Mr Berger discussed the legality of Area C and the topic of illegal “settlements” according to international law, where Mr Berger reasserted the EU’s working relationship with Israel on the issue. Ms Herremans continued in the discussion with human rights offenses, and the EU’s application of double-standards in the region. Focusing on human rights, Ms Herremans cited the Oslo Accords, Article 42 of the Hague Regulations and Resolution 338 (1973) for Israel’s violations of occupied territory in Area C, comparing these violations to Russian annexation of Crimea. Also, she mentioned that Israeli authorities have demolished some of the EU-funded projects since the passing of the 2015 regulations on labelling. The only path to peace is through socialisation, dialogue and implementing territorial clauses clearly outlined in the previous articles in order to meet standards of the future Horizon 2020 vision. Both Christian Berger and Brigitte Herremans emphasized the two-state solution.
Ms Davidovich stressed shared European values and partnership with EU in trade. She presented a brief, personal story of her family history through the Holocaust, with grandparents hailing from Leipzig, Lithuania, and Croatia in order to demonstrate that this dialogue for partnership is not only among friends, but also family. She reasserted both the EU and Israel’s respect for Human Rights, especially following such a turbulent past. Israelis continue to be risk-takers, innovators, and researchers for many start-ups leading to Horizon 2020. Ms Davidovich also clarified that EU is Israel’s largest trading partner with 35-40% Israeli exports going to the EU. She challenged the term “occupation” and asserted that Israel must be allowed solve Israel’s problems, where Islamic fanaticism leading to violence in the region is more due to previous Shia-Sunni tension, rather than Israel’s fairly recent presence. Partnership with the EU is not only philanthropic, but also constitutes a win-win relationship.