By December 5, 2013 Read More →
EU and Israel Agree to Disagree on Horizon 2020

EU and Israel Agree to Disagree on Horizon 2020

Last July, we reported on an EU decision which would prohibit Israel from spending European funds on projects in occupied Palestinian territory. Although this move is unlikely to have a major impact on the Israeli economy, it was considered a major stumbling block for Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020 – the EU’s flagship programme for cooperation in scientific research. Israel is expected to have a €600 million stake in the project.

Negotiations regarding Israel’s participation in the project began in August, with high-level talks between EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Further negotiations took place in Brussels in September. The outcome is a Memorandum of Understanding, which will be signed between both sides in the coming days.

One of Israel’s major concerns over the EU financing guidelines is that they would set an unfavourable legal precedent concerning its borders. The EU guidelines foresee a clause in every future agreement which would force Israel to concede that territories outside of its internationally recognized borders are not a part of the country. Not only does this have implications for Israel’s future international agreements, but it could also set a precedent for EU funding based on other financial instruments. For this reason, Israel has insisted on including an appendix to the MoU which states that “it does not accept Europe’s position and doesn’t view it as a legally binding precedent that will affect the outcome of peace negotiations with the Palestinians.” However, according to EUObserver, officials familiar with the document have classified the appendix as “futile … a fig leaf.”

Crucially, Israel will not be able to challenge the MoU before the EU court in Luxembourg nor before its own national courts. This is because it comes in the form of a legal notice issued by the European Commission.

In its current form, the MoU still does nothing alter the conditions proposed by the funding guidelines. To make the agreement more palatable to the public, Israel is selling it as a compromise deal. A joint statement by Catherine Ashton and Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni reads in part as follows:

The agreement fully respects the EU’s legal and financial requirements while at the same time respecting Israel’s political sensitivities and preserving its principled positions. The agreement reached today takes full account of these constraints. The agreement will allow Israel’s scientific community to benefit from one of the most important EU programmes and facilitate its further integration into the European space of research and innovation. This agreement will pave the way for Israel’s participation in other EU programmes to be launched from 1 January 2014.

Read more:

Barak Ravid – Israel and EU compromise on terms of joint initiative, following rift over settlement funding ban – Haaretz

Andrew Rettmann – EU punishes Israel on settlements, rewards it on UN club – EUObserver

Rachel Avraham – Historic compromise agreement reached with the EU – JerusalemOnline

Joint Statement – European External Action Service

(Image courtesy of Håkan Dahlström)

1. AVRAHAM, Rachel: Historic compromise agreement reached with the EU. JerusalemOnline. [03.12.2013]
AVRAHAM, Rachel: Historic compromise agreement reached with the EU. JerusalemOnline. [03.12.2013]

About the Author:

Sebastian Andrei is NABATAEANS’ editor for EU - Middle East Trade and Political Relations. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Vienna, where he majored in journalism with minors in political science as well as business and economics. Sebastian is responsible for reporting on the European Union’s external trade relations. He also writes about economic development and investment opportunities in Europe as well as about policy changes which affect the EU common market.

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