Posts Tagged ‘EU’
Harriet Sherwood writes in The Guardian about the former EU commissioner’s comments during a visit to Gaza on Sunday:
Former EU commissioner Chris Patten calls Gaza blockade an immoral failure and says bloc must be more independent
The European Union must shake off US dominance and take a bolder approach in pressing for a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the former EU commissioner Chris Patten said today on a visit to Gaza.
Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza had been a “terrible failure – immoral, illegal and ineffective”, he said, which had “deliberately triggered an economic and social crisis which has many humanitarian consequences”.
In an interview with the Guardian, the former Conservative cabinet minister suggested it was time to reassess the isolation of Hamas, saying that approach had failed to weaken it.
Patten’s visit, his first since 2002, coincided with a lightning second trip by the EU foreign policy chief, Lady Ashton, who called on Israel to open Gaza’s borders rather than merely allow in more consumer goods.
Ashton’s second visit since her appointment last December “showed a preparedness to be more independent-minded,” said Patten. “The default European position should not be to wait to find out what the Americans are going to do, and if the Americans don’t do anything to wring our hands. We should be prepared to be more explicit in setting out Europe’s objectives and doing more to try to implement them.”
He implicitly criticised US dominance of the Middle East quartet – the US, EU, UN and Russia – by saying he concurred with the description of it by the leader of the Arab League as the “quartet sans trois”.
Patten, who found it “easier to get into a maximum security prison in the UK than to enter Gaza”, said Israel’s relaxation of its blockade had not gone far enough. “It’s moved from about minus 10 to about minus eight. It doesn’t do anything to help restore economic activity in Gaza.
“It’s difficult to understand what preventing exports has to do with security. It has everything to do with the view that Gaza should be collectively punished to discredit Hamas. Unfortunately there are some centuries, if not millennia, of history that show that does not work. Presumably the international community as well as Israel wants at some stage – sooner rather than later – to be able to persuade Gaza and its political leadership to take a course which will lead to reconciliation and peace and stability. It’s difficult to know how you accomplish that if you deny the people of Gaza any social or economic progress.”
On earlier visits, he said, he had observed “a community that was poor, but at least economic activity was taking place”. Since the blockade, “economic and commercial life has been squeezed out of Gaza in what looks and feels and is like a medieval siege”.
Israel’s change in policy was not a “fundamental shift in its position but it has plainly deflated some of the criticism” following the lethal assault on the aid flotilla on 31 May. That, he added, was “a terrible own goal” for Israel.
On negotiations with Hamas, Patten referred to his involvement with the Northern Ireland peace process, which “would not have been successfully concluded if we hadn’t – with considerable American encouragement – agreed to talk to Sinn Fein/IRA.
“You don’t always agree with people you talk to – indeed sometimes you find them despicable – but you need to ease them out of the corners into which they’ve painted themselves rather than lay on the paint much thicker.
“I think it’s wholly reasonable to say we couldn’t deal with Hamas unless they agreed to a comprehensive and complete ceasefire. But do we need to insist on them accepting all past agreements? Has Israel accepted all past agreements? If you simply isolate them, do you weaken them?” In fact, he said, “you strengthen people who are even more extreme than they are”.
Before crossing to Gaza with the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians, of which he is president, Patten visited the West Bank and was shocked by the “huge new settlements”.
“We’re told there is an ‘unprecedented freeze’, but I saw large numbers of houses and flats being built as we speak. One of the key elements of a final agreement [between Israel and the Palestinians] will be how you cope with settlements. The more difficult it is to secure a viable and contiguous Palestinian state, the more difficult a final agreement will be.”
If two states were no longer possible, then there would have to be one state on the land, he said. “But can you have that and retain a Jewish state which is democratic? I haven’t heard anyone argue that convincingly.”
He said public opinion in Europe and Britain was moving in favour of a change in Israeli policy towards Palestinians, but that could be endangered by growing demands for a boycott of Israel.
“I don’t think a boycott would help,” he said. “It could have the reverse consequences to those intended.”
BBC News quotes Baroness Ashton during her second visit to Gaza in six months:
The position of the European Union is very clear: that we want the opportunity for people to be able to move around freely or to see goods, not only coming into Gaza but exports coming out of Gaza [..] and that is the position that we will be discussing with the Israeli government, as well as of course making sure that we’re putting the right kind of pressure out to the international community.
Read the report at BBC News: “EU envoy urges Israel to open Gaza borders”
from Al Jazeera’s Inside Story:
Striving to make the European Union relevant to the Middle East peace process, Catherine Ashton, the new EU foreign policy chief, visits the region.
Beginning her trip in Egypt on Monday, she is scheduled to visit Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian territories over the course of the week.
It underscores the European Union’s efforts to better engage in the Middle East.
With an ambitious plan to meet key players in six countries, can the Europeans succeed in what the Americans have failed to achieve over decades? Will the current tension between the US and Israel help or hinder a real European role in Middle East peace process?
Inside Story is joined by Mustafa Barghouti, the general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, Richard Youngs, the director general of Fride, a think tank focusing on EU policy. He was previously an analyst at the UK Foreign Office.
Also joining the programme is David Mack, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and a former US ambassador to the UAE.
One of Europe’s decision making body, the Council of the EU, will be discussing upgrading the EU-Israel association agreement next Tuesday 23rd March 2010. The agreement had been due for an upgrade in December 2008, but was suspended following Israel’s massacre in Gaza.
Since 2000, the EU Israel Association Agreement (EUIAA) has promoted strong trade, business and cultural ties between Israel and the EU. An upgrade to ‘special status’ will cement even stronger relations– allowing greater scope for collaboration (e.g. academic exchanges), input in a number of key EU policies and increased access to EU funding.
Israel is also in gross breach of Article 2 of the EUIAA, which requires countries to ‘respect human rights and democratic principles’.
Britain will be represented at the meeting by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Israel must not be rewarded for violating international law and continuing its illegal occupation.
We urge you to contact the following and ask them to reject an upgrade for Israel. Email:
Foreign Secretary: email@example.com
Herman Van Rompuy
President of the European Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Commissioner Cathy Ashton
HR for the Union of Foreign Affairs: email@example.com
The cryptic proceedings of the EU were paused to acknowledge the attendance of a ‘surprise’ visitor/guest/plant:
(point of order brought by Conservative MEP Charles Tannock)
… following that faultless segue-way into a vote on the “Annual accounts of certain types of companies as regards micro-entities” they continued onto the vote on the Goldstone report…
“Implementation of Goldstone recommendations on Israel/Palestine”
Motions for resolutions [PDF] under 2010/2557(RSP): B7-0135/2010, RC-B7-0136/2010, B7-0136/2010, B7-0138/2010, B7-0140/2010, B7-0145/2010, B7-0146/2010*
* – these are links to the resolutions & paragraphs the EU VP Edward McMillan-Scott is referring to in the video above.
- All parties should respect human rights
- Independent and impartial investigations within the next five months
- Implementing and monitoring the Goldstone recommendations
- No restriction of NGO activities
Finally, Parliament welcomes the Council’s 8 December 2009 call for “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings” along the Gaza-Israel frontier as the blockade has further worsened the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The resolution was approved with 335 votes in favour, 287 against and 43 abstentions.
If you missed it, watch the archived video here…
Watch LIVE Online here… Tune in at 11am GMT Wednesday March 10, 2010
MRs – Implementation of Goldstone recommendations on Israel/Palestine Debate
Members of the European Parliament have backtracked from their plan to pass a resolution demanding implementation of the Goldstone report, in response to pressure from European Jewish leaders, Haaretz has learned.
After leaders of all the major EP parties had agreed on the wording of a draft demanding implementation of the controversial document – which accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza last year and proposed prosecuting Israeli officials in the International Criminal Court – the European Union’s legislative body was scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday.
UK Green Party MEP Jean Lambert’s statement:
“I will endorse a European Parliament resolution which supports Israel being held to account; an end to the siege and an opening of crossings for civilian reconstruction; for steps to include Hamas in peace talks, removing them from the terrorist list as a constructive step and to help Hamas act in a way that assists the implementation of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Palestinian territory; and which supports NGOs and civil society to uphold human rights and call those in authority to account. I have been a longstanding advocate of a lasting peaceful and just resolution, which respects democracy and human rights. Along with Green colleagues, I will continue to press for progress in line with these principles.”
From Al Jazeera’s Inside Story:
EU foreign ministers are hoping Europe can “forge a high-profile role” in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Twenty-seven foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels this week to discuss a Swedish proposal to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine, the future of the region and how Europe can aid the ‘peace process’.
Last week, the EU issued a previously classified report on Jerusalem. It accuses the Israeli government of working deliberately to change the city’s demographic balance by issuing Palestinians with substantially fewer building permits than they require. An Israeli human rights group has said that over 4,500 Arabs had their residency rights removed last year alone - that is about half of the total number since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.
Can the EU play a role in peace making after being marginalised for so long? Or is the battle for Jerusalem already over?