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Summary: 27 February 2009, Brussels – Background information on the European Union and the Middle East Peace Process, presented by the European Commission
“Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority for Europe. Without this, there will be little chance of dealing with other problems in the Middle East.” (2003 European Security Strategy)
The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
The EU’s objective is a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbours.
EU positions on “final status issues”
Borders. The EU considers that the future Palestinian state will require secure and recognised borders. These should be based on a withdrawal from the territory occupied in 1967 with minor modifications mutually agreed, if necessary, in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242, 338, 1397, 1402 and 1515 and the principles of the Madrid Process.
Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. On 8 December 2008 the EU confirmed its deep concern about accelerated settlement expansion. This expansion prejudges the outcome of final status negotiations and threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution. The EU considers that settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. On 20 February 2009, the EU condemned Israel’s planned settlement construction in the vicinity of the Adam settlement, stating that settlement activity calls into question the seriousness of Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution.
Jerusalem. The EU considers that the peace negotiations should include the resolution of all issues surrounding the status of Jerusalem. The EU supports institution building work in East Jerusalem, notably in the areas of health, education and the judiciary.
Palestinian refugees. The EU supports a just, viable and agreed solution on this question. We will respect an agreement reached between the two Parties on this point. Since 1971 the EU has been providing significant support to the work of agencies providing vital services to the Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). It is committed to adapting this support as appropriate, in pursuit of a just and equitable solution to the refugee issue.
Security. The EU condemns all acts of violence which cannot be allowed to impede progress towards peace. The EU recognises Israel’s right to protect its citizens from attacks, but emphasizes that the Israeli Government, in exercising this right, should act within international law. Since 2005, the EU has been involved in supporting the development of a democratic and professional Palestinian police force (see below).
EU policymaking from the Venice Declaration to the Annapolis Process
The EU has set out its policy on the Middle East in a series of high level public statements. For example, the Venice Declaration of 1980 recognised the right to security and existence for all states in the region including Israel, and the need to fulfil the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. The Berlin Declaration of 1999 included an explicit commitment to the creation of a Palestinian State. The Seville Declaration of June 2002 introduced specific details of the final status solution, as set out above.
In June 2002, the EU co-sponsored the Roadmap for Peace, a three-stage process for achieving these objectives. The Roadmap emphasises the need for Palestinian institution-building and economic recovery with a view to enhancing the strength and viability of the future Palestinian state. This “state-building process” requires sustained engagement on the part of the international community. It also requires urgent improvement on issues related to freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory. The EU has repeatedly called for the immediate freezing of settlement activities and the proactive dismantling of outposts as set out in the Roadmap.
From 2007 onwards, the EU actively supported the Annapolis Process which committed the Israelis and the Palestinians to implement Roadmap obligations and to reach a peace agreement by the end of 2008. In November 2007, an EU Action Strategy for the Middle East Peace Process was tabled by European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the EU High Representative for the Common and Foreign Security Policy, Javier Solana, setting out a range of ways in which the EU can support the peace process, and the conditions which are necessary for our support to be effective.
Unfortunately, although negotiations took place throughout 2008 in the framework of the Annapolis Process, agreement could not be reached by the agreed deadline. In December 2008 EU Heads of State and Government made a statement stressing that a comprehensive peace in the Middle East remains a top priority for 2009; they praised the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for regional peace; and called on the new US administration to engage from day one.
Regional Peace in the middle East
The EU considers that peace in the Middle East requires a comprehensive solution.
In this regard the EU welcome the announcement in May 2008 that peace talks between Syria and Israel were to resume peace negotiations through Turkish mediation. These indirect talks are currently suspended.
In December 2008, the EU expressed the hope that Lebanon – Israel peace talks would be possible.
The EU has praise the Arab Peace Initiative, as a major step forward for the Middle East Peace Process, since it offers a basis for peaceful and normalized relations between Israel and all 22 members of the Arab League.
In December 2008, the EU called for work to be carried out, notably on the basis of the Arab peace initiative, to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a comprehensive and operational manner.
Political EU activities in support of the MEPP
The EU has strong political and economic relations with partners in the region including Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan. These are underpinned by Association Agreement” and by European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans. The EU is currently examining the possibility of concluding a similar agreement with Syria.
The EU’s Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (“Union for the Mediteranean”) serves as a forum for regional dialogue and remains the only multilateral context outside the United Nations where all parties to the conflict can meet and work together on a range of issues.
Along with Russia, the UN and the USA, the EU participates in the so-called “Quartet”. Recently, the Quartet has supported the Annapolis process which includes a specific focus on implementation of the Parties’ obligations under the 2002 Roadmap. The EU provides financial and human resources to the Office of the Quartet Representative, Tony Blair.
The “EU Troika” consisting of Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, High Representative Solana and the Presidency of the EU, represents the EU at Quartet meetings and conducts dialogue with third countries on the Middle East Peace Process. In 1996, the Council appointed a Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process (EUSR). Ambassador Marc Otte has occupied this post since 2003 and he represents the EU in the preparatory meetings for the Quartet.
Alongside regular consultations with our partners in the region, including the Arab League, the EU Foreign Ministers and the European Council issue regular policy statements as part of a coordinated EU policy.
Practical EU activities in support of the MEPP
The EU is the largest donor to the Palestinians. In recent years, the combined contribution of the European Commission and EU Member States has reached €1 billion per year, which is not sustainable. Working to lift restrictions on the normal operation of the Palestinian economy, notably movement and access issues, is a priority for the EU.
Our assistance is intended to foster the conditions for peace, stability and prosperity in the region, notably by advancing the Palestinian state-building process, promoting good governance and encouraging economic recovery with a view to enhancing the viability of the future Palestinian state. Examples include:
Humanitarian and emergency response. Due to the situation on the ground, much of the EU’s contribution is channelled in this way. We offer humanitarian and emergency aid through UNRWA and our PEGASE mechanism, providing a vital lifeline to Palestinian families affected by poverty and conflict.
State-building activities. For over a decade, the EU has placed a major focus on empowering the Palestinian Authority through institution building and governance work. During 2008 the EU has been intensifying these activities, in areas which complement PA plans, for example health, education and the judiciary. The EU has also contributed to the development of modern and democratic police forces through its “EU POL COPPS” mission in Ramallah which provides police training, police equipment and the reconstruction of police, prison and training facilities. EU assistance to the civil police is complemented by wider support for the rule of law, including support for the establishment of an efficient penal and judiciary system.
Palestinian economic activity. The EU has several measures aimed at encouraging the Palestinian private sector including credit guarantees, vocational training and trade facilitation. Unfortunately at present Palestinian economic activity (and daily life) is limited due to Israeli restrictions on access and movement in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The EU’s development assistance is managed in Brussels by the EuropeAid Co-operation Office. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) oversees humanitarian assistance. Assistance is managed on the ground by the Commission Technical Assistance Office in Jerusalem. Together with the Presidency, the Commission takes a leading role in the ad hoc Liaison Committee of international donors to the Palestinian Authority and in international donors' conferences for the Peace Process, notably the Paris Donors Conference of 17 December 2007 where the Commission pledged €440 million to support the Palestinian Authority’s Reform and Development Plan in 20081.
Customs and trade. The EU is active in this area, for example by providing technological solutions for the swift control of goods passing through the borders of the future Palestinian state, and by supporting the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to develop its trade policy and institutions (such as an agency dealing with customs and border issues).
Border assistance. In November 2005, an EU border assistance mission ("EUBAM Rafah") was established to help ensure international standards at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This mission has been suspended since June 2007 but in December 2008 the EU indicated it is ready to resume its border assistance activities to enable the re-opening of Rafah, in cooperation with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It is also willing to examine the possibility of extending its border assistance to other crossing points in Gaza.
Trilateral dialogues have been organised between the European Commission, Israel and the Palestinian Authority on transport, energy and trade policy.
Civil society activities. The EU’s has consistently supported “people to people” projects. For example, our “Partnership for Peace” programme offers support for local and international civil society initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non-violence in the Middle East. The objective of this support is to contribute to the rebuilding of confidence within each society and between societies.
1EU Commission co-chairs Palestinian Donors Conference and announces €440 million ($650 million) to the Palestinians for 2008.