A group of 63 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across the five biggest political blocs in the parliament have called on European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to suspend the EU-Israel “association agreement.”
The association agreement facilitates largely unrestricted trade between the EU and Israel, allowing Israel to participate in a wide range of the EU’s programs. It also permits Israeli arms companies to receive EU funding.
The MEPs argue that allowing the agreement to stay in place despite Israel’s recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza “sends Israel the message that its violations of basic principles of human rights will be tolerated.”
This appeal for tough action against Israel is one of the most widely-supported initiatives from European parliamentarians in recent years. It follows the publication in December of a statement calling for the suspension of the association agreement that was signed by more than 300 groups across Europe, including some of the continent’s biggest trade unions, political parties and non-governmental organizations.
Also in December, the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine, an umbrella group of European solidarity campaigns, set up a website to make it easy for people to lobby their MEPs on the issue of EU-Israel ties.
Imposing “restrictive measures”
In the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza this summer, the European United Left/Nordic Green Left party and the European Green Party both included the suspension of the association agreement in motions submitted to the European Parliament.
Members of the Socialists & Democrats, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the center-right European People’s Party also signed the recent letter.
Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the Spanish left-wing, anti-austerity Podemos party currently leading the polls, is among the signatories — as is Irish MEP Martina Anderson, who chairs the Palestine committee within the European parliament.
The letter also calls on the EU to impose “restrictive measures” on trade and economic relations that facilitate the expansion and growth of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“Restrictive measures” is the term used to describe the sanctions that the EU metes out against dozens of states, including the total ban on economic ties to Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia.
“The EU’s lack of substantial action with regards to Israel appears out of step with the speed at which it has implemented restrictive measures on Russia with regards to the Ukraine crisis in recent months,” the letter from MEPs also notes.
In June 2013 the EU introduced a ban on its funds being awarded to Israeli entities in the West Bank.
Last year, the EU worked with its member states to issue statements about the legal and political “risks” associated with doing business with companies based in illegal Israeli settlements.
Both measures were hard-won victories for Palestinian campaign groups and the solidarity movements in Europe that had worked with MEPs and built grassroots campaigns for them to be introduced.
While welcome steps in the right direction, these settlement-focused policies clearly stop way short of the type of meaningful action against Israel that is needed to hold it to account.
EU officials highlight these policies as examples of an approach based on upholding international law. In reality, besides a few relatively strong statements, the EU has failed to take any meaningful action in response to Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, and has even sought to block attempts by Palestinians to file charges at the International Criminal Court.
Hopefully the 63 MEPs now calling for tougher action can help drive forward grassroots campaigning in Brussels and across Europe for the EU and its member states to end more aspects of its still largely unconditional support for Israel.
Here’s the full text of the letter along with the list of signatories:
Honourable High Representative,
As you know, over 300 human rights groups, trade unions and political parties from across the European Union have written to you to call for the EU to suspend the EU- Israel Association Agreement.
Amnesty International and Palestinian organisations have documented that Israel deliberately targeted civilians and committed other war crimes during its recent onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza. These are serious violations of international law and international humanitarian law that cannot be tolerated.
The EU has quite rightly condemned Israel’s construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory as illegal under international law. Unfortunately, the EU’s objections about settlement construction do not appear to have had a significant impact on Israeli policy. Various bodies of the United Nations, including the Human Rights Council, have also condemned Israel’s violations of international law repeatedly.
Article 2 of the Association Agreement states that relations between the EU and Israel must “be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles”. There is an increasing concern that the failure of the EU to react appropriately to Israel’s breaches of its commitments according to Article 2 of the Association Agreement sends Israel the message that its violations of basic principles of human rights will be tolerated.
Furthermore, the EU’s lack of substantial action with regards to Israel appears out of step with the speed at which it has implemented restrictive measures on Russia with regards to the Ukraine crisis in recent months, as well as the restrictive measures implemented against more than 30 other countries.
The Lisbon Treaty states that the Union’s external actions must be guided by the principles of fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, equality and solidarity, democracy, the rule of law, the UN Charter and international law.
For the EU to meet these legal obligations and in order to remain a credible actor that is able to improve human rights and fundamental freedoms through its actions, it is necessary that the EU enforces conditionality clauses such as the Article 2 of the EU- Israel Association Agreement
The EU should play a leading role in the promotion of a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians that is based on international law.
For these reasons, we call on the Commission to consider the suspension of Association Agreement with Israel unless Israel takes substantial and immediate steps to bring its conduct in line with international law.
At the very least, we urge the Commission to consider what steps must be taken for the EU and its member states to meet their legal obligation, as set out in the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice, not to render recognition, aid or assistance to Israeli violations of international law, including by imposing restrictive measures on trade and economic relations that facilitate the ongoing existence and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements.
We urge you to take strong action in support of a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
1. Martina Anderson MEP (Ireland, GUE/NGL)
2. Patrick Le Hyaric MEP (France, GUE/NGL)
3. Angela Vallina MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
4. Marisa Matias MEP (Portugal, GUE/NGL)
5. Lynn Boylan MEP (Ireland, GUE/NGL)
6. Liadh Ní Ríada MEP (Ireland, GUE/NGL)
7. Matt Carthy MEP (Ireland, GUE/NGL)
8. Younous Omarjee MEP (France, GUE/NGL)
9. Lidia Rodriguez Senra MEP (Galicia, GUE/NGL)
10. Marie Christine Vergiat MEP (France, GUE/NGL)
11. Lola Sanchez Caldentey MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
12. Anne-Marie Mineur MEP (Netherlands, GUE/NGL)
13. Dennis De Jong MEP (Netherlands, GUE/NGL)
14. Pablo Iglesias MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
15. Teresa Rodriguez-Rubia MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
16. Tania Gonzalez Peña MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
17. Pablo Echenique MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
18. Neoklis Sylikiotis MEP (Cyprus, GUE/NGL)
19. Josè Bovè, MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
20. Merja Kyllonen MEP (Finland, GUE/NGL)
21. Javier Nart MEP (Spain, ALDE)
22. Keith Taylor MEP (UK, Greens/EFA)
23. Ana Gomes MEP (Portugal, S&D)
24. Marina Albiol MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
25. Josu Juaristi MEP (Basque, GUE/NGL)
26. Javier Couso MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
27. Paloma Lopez MEP (Spain, GUE/NGL)
28. Malin Björk MEP (Sweden, GUE/NGL)
29. Rina Ronja Kari MEP (Denmark, GUE/NGL)
30. Jill Evans MEP (UK, Greens/EFA)
31. Sofia Sakorafa MEP (Greece, GUE/NGL)
32. Nessa Childers MEP (Ireland, S&D)
33. Eleonora Forenza MEP (Italy, GUE/NGL)
34. João FERREIRA MEP (Portugal, GUE/NGL)
35. Ines Zuber MEP (Portugal, GUE/NGL)
36. Miguel Viegas MEP (Portugal, GUE/NGL)
37. Marian Harkin MEP (Ireland, ALDE)
38. Marie-Christine VERGIAT MEP (France, GUE/NGL)
39. Bodil Ceballos MEP (Sweden, Greens/EFA)
40. Karima Delli MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
41. Pascal Durand MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
42. Yannick Jadot MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
43. Eva Joly MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
44. Michele Rivasi MEP (France, Greens/EFA)
45. Alyn Smith MEP (UK, Greens/EFA)
46. Molly Scott Cato MEP (UK, Greens/EFA)
47. Curzio Maltese MEP (Italy, GUE/NGL)
48. Jordi Sebastia MEP (Spain, Greens/EFA) (mandate 2014-2015)
49. Florent Marcellesi MEP (Spain, Greens/EFA) (mandate 2016-2017)
50. Dimitrios Papadimoulis MEP (Greece, GUE/NGL)
51. Ivo Vajgl MEP (Slovenia, ALDE)
52. Josep-Maria Terricabras MEP (Spain, Greens/EFA)
53. Sirpa Pietikäinen MEP (Finland, EPP)
54. Tanja Fajon MEP (Slovenia, S&D)
55. Philippe Lamberts MEP (Belgium, Greens/EFA)
56. Ernest Urtasun MEP (Spain, Greens/EFA)
57. Judith Sargentini MEP (Netherlands, Greens/EFA)
58. Luke Ming Flanagan MEP (Ireland, GUE/NGL)
59. Margrete Auken MEP (Denmark, Greens/EFA)
60. Bart Staes MEP (Belgium, Greens/EFA)
61. Fernando Maura Barandiarán MEP (Spain, ALDE)
62. Barbara Spinelli MEP (Italy, GUE/NGL)
63. Maria Arena MEP (Belgium, S&D)