Israel's reputation for innovation at stake in EU's Horizon 2020

August 6, 2013
Sarah Benton

Israel’s National Security Council to discuss EU cooperation in wake of settlement boycott

The topics of discussion will include whether Israel will continue cooperating with Horizon 2020, the EU’s ambitious research and innovation program, and cooperative projects of the Economy Ministry, Education Ministry and Science and Technology Ministry.

By Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz
August 05, 2013

The head of the National Security Council, Yaakov Amidror, held a meeting on Monday about the implications of the European Union’s new guidelines on boycotting Israeli research institutions that operate over the Green Line. During the meeting, continued cooperation between Israel and the EU in various fields was reexamined.

The topics of discussion were set to include whether Israel will continue cooperating with Horizon 2020, the EU’s ambitious research and innovation program, and cooperative projects of the Economy Ministry, Education Ministry and Science and Technology Ministry. Representatives of these ministries will examine in depth the ramifications of stopping cooperation on these projects. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett says he believes that stopping cooperation with the EU is the right thing to do. But Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry opposes stopping it, and several days ago he even sent a letter asking that no hasty decisions be made on the subject.

The Council for Higher Education, which is subordinate to the Education Ministry, has not yet made a decision on the matter. Monday’s meeting was the prelude to a broader discussion planned by the prime minister to draw conclusions.

If Israel joins Horizon 2020, it will transfer about 600 million euros to the EU over the next seven years and will allow universities, researchers and companies from Israel to receive funding and grants for projects in many technological fields. For every euro Israel transfers as part of the project, it will get back a euro and a half. Israel is the only non-European country eligible to participate in the program as a member with full rights, and even now it is participating in an EU research and development program that will conclude at year’s end.

Last month, the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, issued new guidelines about the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and on the Golan Heights. The guidelines stipulate that any Israeli legal entity that wishes to receive funding, participate in a project or compete for grants or awards given by foundations or agencies of the EU will have to submit a statement declaring that it has no direct or indirect link to the settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem or on the Golan Heights.

In response to the EU guidelines, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered limitations on the movement of EU representatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip several weeks ago. Ya’alon ordered the defense establishment to cease cooperation in the field with EU representatives. This move includes the cessation of assistance in infrastructure projects in Area C, the areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

Ya’alon also intends to restrict the movement of EU representatives from the Gaza Strip into Israel and back through the Erez checkpoint. Ya’alon’s actions are apparently coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel’s uncertain future with Horizon 2020

By i24 news
August 06, 2013

PM must decide whether or not to swallow the EU’s directives in order to join its flagship innovation program

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s senior staff members are holding fervent talks with government officials ahead of the beginning of talks with the EU over Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020 — the European Union’s flagship research and innovation program.

Israel is the only non-European country that was invited to join the project, which aims to fuel economic growth and create job opportunities, as a full member. But its participation has been beset by problems, as the EU recently issued new anti-settlement guidelines that prohibit any EU funding of Israeli entities that operate beyond the pre-1967 lines — territories considered by the international community to be occupied by Israel in contravention of international law.

Under the guidelines, institutions located inside the pre-67 lines will be asked to sign a territorial clause stipulating that the “occupied territories” are not part of Israel.

On Monday, National Security Council chairman Ya’akov Amidror held a round of meetings with senior officials from the ministries that stand to be most affected by the guidelines in order to discuss their implications.

Netanyahu himself will engage in the talks directly in the coming days, meeting with officials from the Science and Technology Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Economy and Trade Ministry.

The publication of the new guidelines caused an uproar in Israel, and created diplomatic tensions with Brussels.

Last week, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon ordered the Israel Defense Forces cease cooperation with EU projects in the West Bank, including projects in Area C, which is under full Israeli control.

A heavy price

If Israel decides not to participate in Horizon 2020, there may be a heavy price to pay — with lost earnings estimated at millions of Euros.

Though Israel is set to spend around 600 million Euros over the next seven years in order to take part in the project, its participation will also ensure that Israeli universities and institutions are eligible for EU grants and funding.

For every shekel Israel contributes, it is expected to get back NIS 1.5 Euros — a net gain of around 300 million Euros. Now Netanyahu must decide whether the dispute can be settled by holding talks with the EU, or whether to refuse to participate until disagreements over the settlement guidelines are resolved.

A senior Israeli official said Monday that the Horizon 2020 agreement will not have a territorial clause — which may be the solution to the diplomatic entanglement.

Renewed hope

The EU directive was published a few days before the renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinians were announced.

Israel has expressed hope that the latest developments will prompt the Europeans to postpone the implementation of the directives.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton may have indicated a willingness to find a resolution to the problem via her statement that welcomed the resumption of negotiations, in which she said that “the resumption of talks opens new doors both for developing further the EU’s contribution to peace and security in the region and for deepening our relations with both parties.’’

Israeli president Shimon Peres discussed the issue with his Lithuanian counterpart Dalia Grybauskaitė during his visit to Lithuania last week, and said that Ashton had said she would discuss the possibility of postponing the implementation of the guidelines.

i24 is a new media outlet touted as the ‘Israeli al Jazeera’ in the belief it will better get the `Israeli case across than other media.

Israel formulating response to EU settlement guidelines before start of Horizon 2020

By Herb Keinon, JPost
August 05, 2013

The European Union is willing to discuss Israel’s objections to its recently published “settlement guidelines,” but its degree of flexibility on the matter is unclear, and Israel needs to draw its own “red lines,” a senior Israeli official said Monday [August 5th].

The official’s comments came as National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror convened a meeting of senior officials from a number of ministries – including the Foreign Ministry, the Economy and Trade Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Space – to discuss under what conditions Israel could begin negotiations with the EU over its participation in the lucrative Horizon 2020 R&D program.

The EU threw a wrench into Israel’s participation in the 80 billion euro program when it published guidelines last month prohibiting any EU funds in the form of grants, prizes and financial instruments from going to Israeli entities beyond the pre-1967 lines, and also mandating that any future agreements between Israel and the EU incorporate a territorial clause stipulating that the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not part of Israel.

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s innovation flagship program, meant to create jobs and fuel economic growth.

Israel is the only non-EU country that has been asked to join as a full partner, and is expected to pay some 600 million euros over the next seven years to take part. This is considered a worthwhile investment, because for every shekel Israel contributes, it is expected to get back NIS 1.5 in research funds and other inbound investments.

Israel needs to decide whether to begin negotiations over participation in the project, or delay substantive talks on the program until disagreements over the guidelines are resolved.

The internal Israel discussions, one official said, is over red lines. Israel cannot sign a clause that contradicts its own policies and laws. Israel annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and will not sign a clause saying those areas are not part of Israel. Furthermore, it is also not willing to sign an agreement that discriminates against Israeli entities over the Green Line.

One official said that the internal discussions are not over boycotting the Europeans “to get back at them” but over finding a formula both sides can live with.

The meeting Amidror convened Monday evening was a prelude to a meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to convene in the coming days with the “political echelon” to determine Israel’s red lines, as well as to formulate the tactics to prevent crossing those lines.

Israel considers boycott of EU research programme

August 05, 2013

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is considering a boycott of the EU Research and Development Horizon 2020 programme. The move is being seen as a possible response to Europe’s boycott of Israeli companies and goods sourced from the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

According to Maariv, time is running out for the ministry to make a decision as the programme’s first meeting is due to be held on August 14. This, claims the newspaper, suggests that there is pressure from within for Israel to pull out of the R&D scheme.

Israel is the only non-European full partner in Horizon 2020 and the government stands to lose €1 billion if it decides not to take part. There is a possibility that the initial meeting will be boycotted as a gesture to put pressure on the EU to ease its restrictions on entities operating out of illegal settlements.

The R&D programme’s budget will reach €80 billion, with a 40 per cent increase over its predecessor. Israel’s designated role in the programme is to pay €600 million to support university research in EU countries; for every shekel that Israel contributes, it is expected to get back 1.5 shekels in research funds and other investments.

Notes and links

What is Horizon 2020?
Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe’s global competitiveness. Running from 2014 to 2020 with an €80 billion budget, the EU’s new programme for research and innovation is part of the drive to create new growth and jobs in Europe.

Horizon 2020 provides major simplification through a single set of rules. It will combine all research and innovation funding currently provided through the Framework Programmes for Research and Technical Development, the innovation related activities of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

The Innovation Union

Israel weighs participation in EU-funded research programme BICOM, August 6th, 2013

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