Palestine–European Union relations
Relations between the European Union and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) were established in 1975 as part of the Euro-Arab Dialogue. The EU is a member of the Quartet and is the single largest donor of foreign aid to Palestinians.
As of 2015, 9 out of 28 EU member states recognize Palestine. In 2014, Sweden became the first member to recognize Palestine. Malta and Cyprus had recognized Palestine prior to joining the EU, as did a number of Central European member states when they were part of the Soviet Union. It is a bit unclear what the status of their recognitions is today, as some of these states (the Czech Republic in particular) have emerged as Israel’s closest allies in Europe.
The EU maintains a representative office in Ramallah, accredited to the PNA. The PLO's general delegation in Brussels, accredited to the EU, was first established as an information and liaison bureau in September 1976. Other representations are maintained in almost every European capital, many of which have been accorded full diplomatic status. The EU's special envoy to the Middle East Peace Process is Marc Otte.
In western Europe, Spain was the first country granting diplomatic status to a PLO representative, followed later by Portugal, Austria, France, Italy and Greece.
Position on Israeli issues
The EU has insisted that it will not recognise any changes to the 1967 borders other than those agreed between the parties. Israel's settlement program has therefore led to some tensions, and EU states consider these settlements illegal under international law.
In 2008, during the French presidency of the Council, the European Union strived to increase cooperation with the US on Middle-Eastern issues, inter alia with a view to coordinating common pressures on Israel.
The EU has also been highly critical of Israeli military actions in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, often referring to them as "disproportionate" and "excessive force" and calling for an immediate cease-fire. During Operation Defensive Shield, the European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for economic sanctions on Israel and an arms embargo on both parties. Following the Gaza War, the European Parliament endorsed the Goldstone Report. The EU has also been critical of Israel's Gaza blockade, referring to it as "collective punishment".
Position on statehood
EU first endorsed the idea of Palestinian statehood in its 1999 Berlin Declaration. Before that, the EU and its predecessor, the EC, had since 1973 through various declarations legitimized Palestinian rights in the form of recognizing the Palestinians as "a people", the need for them to have "homeland" and exercising their "right to self-determination".
In July 2009, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called for the United Nations to recognise the Palestinian state by a set deadline even if a settlement had not been reached: "The mediator has to set the timetable. If the parties are not able to stick to it, then a solution backed by the international community should ... be put on the table. After a fixed deadline, a UN Security Council resolution ... would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the UN, and set a calendar for implementation."
In December, the Council of the European Union endorsed a set of conclusions on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict which forms the basis of present EU policy. It reasserted the objective of a two-state solution, and stressed that the union "will not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties." It recalled that the EU "has never recognised the annexation of East Jerusalem" and that the State of Palestine must have its capital in Jerusalem.
A year later, in December 2010, the Council reiterated these conclusions and announced its readiness, when appropriate, to recognise a Palestinian state, but encouraged a return to negotiations. Eight of its 27 member states have recognised the State of Palestine.
In 2011, the Palestinian government called on the EU to recognise the State of Palestine in a United Nations resolution scheduled for 20 September. EU member states grew divided over the issue. Some, including Spain, France and the United Kingdom, stating that they might recognise if talks did not progress, while others, including Germany and Italy, refused. Catherine Ashton said that the EU position would depend on the wording of the proposal. At the end of August, Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak told Ashton that Israel was seeking to influence the wording: "It is very important that all the players come up with a text that will emphasise the quick return to negotiations, without an effort to impose pre-conditions on the sides."
In 2014, the European Union and the United States officially criticised Israel's settlement policies in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians regard as their de jure capital, and warned against the further construction of Israeli homes on disputed land.
In December 2014, the European Parliament voted in favour of a non-binding resolution calling for the recognition of Palestinian statehood as part of a two-state solution and alongside the development of the peace process with 498 votes in favour, 88 against and 111 abstentions.
Aid to the Palestinians
The Palestinian newspaper Maan reported in 2011, citing a senior official at the Palestinian Ministry of Planning, that the PA has received about US$20 billion in donor funds since the peace process began. It is estimated that the EU, including individual contributions by its members, has given €10 billion to the Palestinians since the peace process began in 1994. Economic assistance to the PA and the Palestinian people constitutes the EU’s highest per capita foreign aid program.
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- Council for European Palestinian Relations
- European Union – Arab League relations
- Israel – European Union relations
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