The EU-Israel relations and the inconsistencies of European foreign policy

Facing the Arab spring, the EU has repeatedly stressed its willingness to promote the respect of human rights as an essential foundation for future Arab democracies under construction. But what about its relations with Israel? The launch this week of the joint report of Aprodev and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) on the subject allows us to point at some inconsistencies in EU foreign policy.

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU insists on increasing the consistency of its foreign policy with  » principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law »(cf. Article 10A of the Treaty). This desire for consistency, Catherine Ashton underlined it again in her joint communication to the Council and the European Parliament on December 12, entitled « Human Rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action – towards a more effective approach« .

But this consistency seems to remain at the stage of the words since, despite a lack of political will to move towards peace, and obvious violations of human rights by Israel, the EU continues to build a close relationship with this State. The freeze of the upgrading of the association agreement decided in June 2009 following the deadly Israeli attack on Gaza is merely an illusion behind which lies a « silent upgrading » » (K. Lemanska, La coopération entre l’UE et Israël. Etat des lieux, Palestine n°49, ABP, 2011).

On the other hand, the EU stays blind in front of the annual reports of European heads of missions in East Jerusalem. Those are each year more alarming on the situation in East Jerusalem, and this year also on Area C ((R.Backmann, Les Européens jugent qu’Israël sabote le processus de paix, Nouvel Obs, 1/2/2012). The diplomats authors of the report go further this time and recommend that the EU legislates to prevent or discourage businesses and organizations of member states to do business that support Israeli settlements (H. Sherwood, EU report calls for action over Israeli settlement growth, 18/1/2012). Like every year, this report will end in a drawer.

Arab spring demonstrators showed they were not naive. The policy of double standards lead so far by the EU won’t be accepted longer. If it wants to convince, it is time for the EU to respect the principle of consistency that it has itself imposed. Relations between the EU and Israel can no longer grow in this way, in total negation of international law and human rights.


Nathalie Janne d’Othée