Today, the EUObserver reports “EU to boost Israel trade relations despite settlements row” (EUObserver, July 24, 2012). The Guardian had the story yesterday (just sayin’) and both outlets notice that “none of the 27 foreign ministers objected to the deal,” which includes:
60 trade and diplomatic policy areas, including increased access to the EU’s single market, closer cooperation on transport and energy, and enhanced ties with nine EU agencies, including the police body Europol and the European Space Agency. Israel will also be in line to receive direct financial assistance worth €6 million over the next three years.
Unsurprisingly, the PA has already voiced their strong disapproval:
We call on the EU to reconsider its relations with Israel as an occupying power, and to revoke any preferential treatment Israel receives in view of that country’s willful and persistent violations of its agreements and obligations.” (PLO Executive Committee member, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi from Brussels)
The full “update” will be delivered later today at the press conference presumably.
So — what’s going on?
The EU and Israel have formalised their partnership with the AA (insert lame joke), the Association Agreement. More here. EU is Israel’s biggest trade partner, and the AA has been held on a freeze for years due to “Israel’s policy vis-a-vis the peace process.” So the news that the EU is now “boosting” trade is good news. And if you don’t think it’s good news, then the fact that the PLO condemns it should tell you that it is.
However — it is the “EU-Israel Association Council” that voted for this. That is part of the European Commission (hence it consisting of the 27 Foreign Ministers). For any of this to be ratified and have real impact, it needs to go through the European Parliament (EP). And that is not likely to happen any time soon, as the EUObserver notes:
MEPs adopted a resolution earlier this month demanding an immediate halt to new Israeli settlements and a moratorium on products from the occupied territories being accepted by the EU.
It seems to mimic a general tendency in Europe, where the relations with Israel on a governmental level are doing tolerably, but on a “people” or parliament level are in shambles.
The Knesset actually has a committee for relations with the EU, headed by MK Plesner. I have to wonder out loud: Why are they so silent in times like this?