Thank you for your email. Much as I admire the strength of your conviction, should the matter come before a plenary session, I shall vote -as I do always and everywhere- for free trade. I realise this isn’t the answer you want, but I’ve never had much time for politicians who tailor their views to suit their audience.
The EU and Israel enjoy strong relations, based on shared democratic values, historic ties and substantial trading links – in 2012 exports to the EU from Israel accounted for over a quarter of Israel’s total. These relations are underpinned by the 1995 Association Agreement, which ensures free trade in a number of sectors and fosters continued political and economic discussion. Israel similarly enjoys strong bilateral relations with many of the EU’s individual Member States, the UK being foremost among them.
International Law regards the ‘Arab territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem’, to be illegal, and the EU and its constituent Member States respect this judgement. In light of this, the EU’s position has been that any free trade agreements do not cover territories outside of Israel’s 1967 borders, the so called ‘Green Line’. This position was concretely reasserted in guidelines published by the Commission in July of this year, which excluded entities based in Israeli Occupied Territories from access to EU grants and funding as of January 2014. These guidelines were issued based on a mandate given to the Commission by the Council of Ministers in 2012.
Under these guidelines, EU Member States are entitled to reject duty free access to goods which they believe to be incorrectly labelled regarding their provenance. The enforcement of this is the hands of the individual EU Member States and their national customs authorities.
As discussions are being concluded with regards to Israel’s potential participation in the Horizon 2020 R&D programme, these guidelines have faced renewed scrutiny. As you rightly point out, under the new guidelines, institutions based in territories outside of the Green Line would be ineligible to take part in the programme, and there has been pressure to explicitly identify this position in the agreement, which the Israeli Government has understandably objected to.
The ECR in general supports the EU Guidelines which reflect long-standing EU policy on settlements, and the reference to the guidelines in Horizon 2020. We endorse the approach that the EU has taken to work closely with Israel to flexibly implement the Guidelines and we want to see the EU’s economic and scientific cooperation with Israel strengthened.