The EU and Israel-Palestine

Page last updated 15 April 2015


The EU has a number of special trade and research agreements with Israel the most important of which date from the Oslo period and have been extended over time. So much so that Javier Solana, the union’s foreign policy chief could say in 2009: “There is no country outside the European continent that has this type of relationship that Israel has with the European Union… Israel, allow me to say, is member of the European Union without being a member of the institution. It’s a member of all the programs, it participates in all the programs. And I’d like to emphasize and underline, with a very big, thick line [that Israel participates] in [helping us deal] with all the problems of research and technology, which are very important.” (Ha’aretz, 21 Oct 2009)

From its earliest days JfJfP has campaigned for Israel to be held to account by the EU, in particular for the privileges that it has been granted under the EU-Israel Association Agreement to be made conditional on its meeting its obligations under Article 2 of the same agreement. This reads as follows: “Relationships between the parties, as well as the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.”

The EU attitude to Israel appears almost schizophrenic. On the one hand it consistently reaffirms its view that settlements are illegal under international law; and it has, in recent years, moved to tighten up labeling of goods to prevent produce from these illegal settlements being freely on sale in the EU, much to the Israeli government’s consternation

Yes, highly critical of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians under occupation as it may be, the EU has at the same time argued for and ended up extending privileges to Israel which it enjoys under the various agreements such as the ACCA protocol, the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), etc. It has also proved remarkably willing to help fund development projects and the very functioning of the Palestinian Authority, but at the same time to meekly accept the physical destruction of much of the EU-funded infrastructure in Israel’s wars.

A major actor in relation to the Middle-East conflict, a member of the Quartet (US, Russia, the UN and the EU) responsible for (failing to) ensure progress in peace negotiations over the last decade, it has come in for heavy criticism from supporters of Palestinian human rights for its willingness to continue granting Israel privileged access to the EU in so many ways, despite the contempt with which Israel treats it and its agreements.

In December 2014 members of the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for recognition of Palestinian statehood in principle.

The links below are mainly to postings which have appeared on our website over the years.


Background and campaigns

1. The EU-Israel Association Agreement, the reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, full access to the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) etc

Links to the texts of the various EU-Israel agreements, on the Europa website.


2. The European Union – Israel Association Agreement: An Introduction (not a web-page, the file downloads)
Aprodev, the Association of World Council of Churches related Development Organizations in Europe, 2002

A very helpful analysis and critique of EU policy in this early 2002 study. Aprodev has a very helpful website with information about initiatives coordinated by it.


3. JfJfP and EJJP campaigning work
This includes interventions from 2003-04 up until 2014


4. The campaign against the ACCA protocol
JfJfP composite posting, 19 Jul 2012

A substantial campaign was mounted over many months in 2012 against the acceptance of the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACCA), attached to the EU-Israel Association Agreement. This agreement facilitates the entrance of Israeli products, and particularly pharmaceutical products, to European markets, without additional testing or conformity to assessment procedures. Strong arguments were made against it – see the documents collected together in the posting above as well as Why the UK and EU can and should ban settlement products which includes a discussion of the legal opinion from leading international counsel James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge University, which argues that the EU would be fully within their rights to ban trade with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

5. EJJP lobbying letter to Ms. Katharina Von Schnurbein, Coordinator on combating anti-Semitism, 15 July 2016


Other articles and analyses

1. EU’s aid to oPt is merely a life-support system for status quo
Michelle Pace, The Conversation, JfJfP 26 Mar 2015

Most European parliaments have voted to recognise Palestine statehood. Most European governments have not only ignored the elected representatives who put them in power; they also ignore EU guidelines on trade. It is about time all these leaders who trumpet principles like ‘British values’ acted on them.


 2. EU Alarmed by Israel, Frustrated by Palestine
Nadia Hijab, Al-Shabaka, 22 Jun 2015

As alarmed as they are by Israel’s international law and human rights violations, EU officials and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are also frustrated by the Palestinian leadership’s actions, or, more appropriately, inaction. A clear-headed analysis of the current state of EU thinking on the conflict by Nadia Hijab, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, which she co-founded in 2009.


3.  Israel has failed to meet its obligations in West Bank says EU
Ma’an News, JfJfP 25 Mar 2015

The EU is donating €3.5 million for infrastructure projects in Area C of the West Bank. Water supply, roads, education and medical amenities are all lacking and often destroyed by the IDF. In a sharp rebuke, Michael Köhler, who signed the agreement with PM Hamdallah on behalf of the European Commission, said Israel was not meeting its obligations as the controlling power to Palestinian people.


4. EU parliament votes for principle of Palestinian statehood
Financial Times, JfJfP 17 Dec 2014

The gulf between the people’s representatives and their governments widens further as the EU Parliament in Strasbourg voted 498:88 to recognise the principle of Palestinian statehood – to be made a reality by diplomatic negotiation. The swath of parliamentary votes represents impatience not just with Netanyahu but also with EU governments.


5. EU is contributing to Israel’s impunity and lack of accountability   and Leading and pushing EU to act for Palestine
2 separate postings, JfJfP early Nov 2014

Federica Mogherini, the new EU foreign affairs minister, has declared her hope that Palestine will become a state during her tenure – with the EU playing a key role; 318 civil society groups from a majority of EU countries (18 out of the 28, plus the Basque country) have written to her, calling on the EU to suspend the preferential EU-Israel Association Agreement in light of Israel’s flouting of international law – which binds all EU countries.


6. A waste of euros when Israel blocks state-building
EurActiv report, JfJfP 5 Sep 2014

The EU is the biggest donor to the oPt and the PNA. But the IDF destroys much of the infrastructure European taxpayers have funded and there has been no movement towards the establishment of a Palestinian state – the point of the aid. Now senior EU officials are questioning whether there is any point in continuing this funding.


7. EU governments warn against doing deals with settlements in oPt
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz, JfJfP 28 Jun 2014

The governments of Spain, Italy and France have now joined those of the UK and Germany warning individuals and companies not to have financial dealings with Israeli settlements. Because of the illegality of Israeli property and entities established there, no trade or investment can be protected by law. A warning from the EC is anticipated.


8. EU governments shuffle towards ban on settlement trade
Sara, Palestine Briefing, JfJfP 10 Dec 2013

Since the EC passed its guidelines last July on any funds going to entities in the illegal settlements, the Israeli government has been frantically trying to dig loopholes in the guidelines large enough for settlement trade to pass through. They have made a little progress. But EU opposition to settlements remain strong and the UK’s Trade and Investment department has issued a warning that such trade involves risk to the reputation and income of companies.


9. The European companies that support the occupation
ECCP, JfJfP 30 Nov 2013

EU countries have taken the high ground about Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. But their remit seems to stop short of European companies which continue to accept Israeli contracts for demolishing Palestinian homes (Volvo, JCB), imprisoning Palestinians (G4S), importing goods from the settlements (Tesco, Waitrose) and servicing the settlements (Veolia). Such companies ease the functioning of settlements despite the formal position of their home countries.

10. EU rules Israeli occupation out of order  and Angry response to EU from Israeli right wing
2 composite postings, JfJfP 17 Jul 2013

Links to a series of articles show how new European Commission’s guidelines on the consequences of the Israeli occupation have shocked Israelis. The angry response marks the huge gulf between words (for years, EU bodies have been issuing statements condemning the settlements), and actions (making favourable trade deals with Israel). So Israelis ignored the criticism. Now in their anger they have rediscovered the Kerry peace mission (hitherto ignored) which they say the EU is threatening, and complaining that Palestinians will get uppity. Fatah has expressed ‘joy’ at the decision.

11. Russell Tribunal urges EU to end Israel’s privileged trade deal
Composite posting, JfJfP 19 Mar 2013

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, made up of a lawyers’ and citizens’ jury, has spent four years taking evidence on the complicity of 3rd parties in the occupation. It has just completed its fifth and final session. Posted here, some of its findings and recommendations including support for BDS and the PA’s access to the ICC.


12. EU’s role in sustaining illegal settlements
JfJfP 30 Oct 2012

22 NGOs, Christian and secular, have taken up what EU institutions have flunked: a campaign to press the EC and EU members to practise their policies on the illegality of Israel’s settlements and what they produce. The CAABU media release states: “The report, entitled Trading Away Peace: How Europe helps sustain illegal Israeli settlements, is the first to compare available export data from Israeli settlements and Palestinians, highlighting the inconsistency at the heart of EU policy. The EU states, ‘settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace, and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible’, but continues to provide a primary export market for settlement products. Most EU Member States have failed to ensure products are correctly labelled in stores, leaving consumers unaware of the products’ true origin, contrary to the EU’s own directives”.


13. Feasting on the Occupation: Illegality of Settlement Produce and the Responsibility of EU Member States under International Law

“The study examines the extent to which trading in settlement produce has become an essential step in the consolidation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. International stakeholders, particularly the European Union (EU), are directly contributing to the growth and viability of settlements by providing an essential source of revenue that allows them to thrive. This is especially true of settlements in the Jordan Valley, at least 60 per cent of which are dependent on agriculture.”


14. Shifting Paradigms for Israel-Palestine: Why the EU Must Answer the Wake-Up Call Now, 4 April 2023

This artticle analyses the unreality of the Euiropean’s Union’s long-time policy of offering further integration in the EU to israel and urging both parties to the conflict to avoid esacalation and return to negotiations for creating a Palestinian state. The authors argue that the EU must recognise that Israeli governments have long been engaged in a settler colonialist policy, and have no interest in allowing a Palestiian state to come into being. The EU “should first and foremost leverage its position to hold Israel accountable and ensure that it fully complies with international law prioritising the legitimate aspirations and rights of the Palestinian people.”


If you reached this page from the Section 3: Strategies for Change, click STRATEGIES FOR CHANGE to return to it.


Contents of this section


a) The ‘Israel lobby’: US aid to and support for Israel
b) The European Union and Israel-Palestine
c) General commentaries

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