EDITOR's NOTES: Don't wait longer to convene the EU-Israel Association Council....
Over the last fives months, the European Union has convened its Association Council with Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt… but still not its Association Council with Israel, a high-level bilateral ministerial body which is normally due to be held every year in the EU Council premises in Brussels.
At the beginning of this year, however, EU officials announced that the Council would be held, an announcement that was interpreted as a sign of warming ties between the two sides and the desire of the EU to upgrade its relations with Jerusalem. The Association Council with Israel has not met since 2012 due to disagreements over Israel’s settlement policy.
When she met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the sidelines of a conference on security in Munich in February, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini agreed to convene the EU-Israel Association Council ‘’at the earliest possible opportunity.’’
Later in the year, Mogherini announced during a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers that they had decided to start preparations for the Association Council meeting. Which was meant to mark tightened cooperation with Israel. ‘’That is going to be a good oppoertunity, a good tool, to exchange views and hopefully aklso find common grounds with one of the two parties (to the conflict),’’ she then said.
But one day after this announcement, the EU decided to postpone the meeting – at the request of some member statess- after the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, voted the so-called ‘’Regulation Law’’ which retroactively legalized some West Bank homes built on private Palestinian land.
EU officials, however, were quick to say that preparations for the meeting were ‘’ongoing.’’. Since then nothing…. At the end of July, asked by European Jewish Press, a spokesperson for the EU external service that ‘’we have nothing to announce.’’
Generally, the Association Council is held at Foreign Minister level. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently also holding.
It was created in the framework of the 2000 EU-Israel Association Agreement. Cooperation between the EU and Israel on bilateral issues such as trade, technology, science, security, culture, education… is very intense. Several European Commissioners have visited Israel and more are expected in Jerusalem.
Several EU countries believe that its highly time to convene the Council. Like Lithuanian Foreign Ministeinus Linkevicius, who insisted during a visit in Jerusalem this week that the EU and Israel ‘’need to talk.’’ ‘’We have to exchange positions, which is not the case so far, and has not been for a long time.’’ ‘’ I would like to see this dialogue happen, with the understanding that there could be some disagreements. A lot of issues should be discussed – be it settlements, be it the Iranian issue, or whatever,’’ he added.
On Tuesday, the press officer at the EU embassy in Israel, Mark Gallagher, was quoted as saying that a date for convening a meeting would be set soon….
The EU shoukldn’t not wait longer to start writing a new page in its relations with Israel, a country which is after all the one and only democracy in the region… Because the EU has a lot to learn from Israel and shares with this country a lot of values....