BRUSSELS (EJP)---The European Union has issued a binding directive to the 28 member states forbidding any funding, cooperation, awarding of scholarships, research funds or prizes to institutions or people residing in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
The directive was reportedly sent out on June 30.
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin called the decision a "very significant and worrying move," telling Israel radio on Tuesday that it doesn't help attempts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.
The EU directive reportedly extends to “all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes” to Israeli entities in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
It also requires that any contracts between EU member countries and Israel henceforth include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz newspaper.
The new directive, which was initiated in December by the EU Foreign Ministers, is “in conformity with the EU’s longstanding position that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and with the non-recognition by the EU of Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied territories, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law,” the EU said.
In the December conclusions, part of a larger document on the Middle East Peace Process, the Foreign Affairs Council stated: “The European Union expresses its commitment to ensure that — in line with international law — all agreements between the State of Israel and the European Union must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the West Bank including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” the council resolution states.
The statement called for full implementation of existing EU legislations and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.
Europe has long opposed much of Israel’s policy in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and in March EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was the latest to call for implementing the labeling of products from the settlements for sale in Europe.
‘’Settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible,’’ she has repeatedly stated.
Earlier this year, EU’s Ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley said that “the EU is opposed to boycotts” but suggested that such directives are “the expression of concern at the political level at the lack of positive movement in the Middle East peace process and continued Israeli settlement construction.’’
During a visit in Jerusalem last month, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose country took over the six-month rotating EU presidency, said Israel should take the issue of settlement products labeling seriously.
"If products grown or manufactured in Israeli settlements are not properly labeled as such, it could spark moves in some European countries to boycott all Israeli goods," he said.
“I know the mood in some countries is that if you don’t change the market practice, you could lead to a boycott of all Israeli] goods. You should take this into account,” he said.