Thursday 25 December 2008

ACTION ALERT- Urgent call for Action on upgrade of the EU- Israel Association Agreement!!


Haitham Sabbah

The recent postponement of the vote in the European Parliament on the extension of existing EU programmes with Israel has been attributed to the great mass of letters received by MEPs, MPs and Ministers, showing the growing influence of civil society on attitudes towards Israel.

We now need you to write again about an even more crucial and urgent issue relating to the upgrading of EU relations with Israel.

Although the postponement was important, the vote was not related to the upgrade agreement recently signed by the foreign ministers of all the Member States (the EU Council) This was a crucial step in the upgrading of relations with Israel and one over which the European Parliament has no control.

The new EU-Israel Action Plan is currently being drafted by the European Commission for discussion by the Member States at the beginning of the next year. So far, it does not include any concrete actions that will end Israel’s blatant disregard for human rights and International law. It does not even require Israel to meet its own obligations under the so-called ‘peace process’.

Inside the EU, it is feared that the Commission will not face sufficient objections from the public, MEPs and NGOs and will draft a weak document without any reference to human rights.

It is therefore vital to use this brief opportunity during late December/early January, while the document is being drafted, to use all means possible to force the EC to include concrete objectives regarding human rights and International Law

Please write urgently to your MEPs urging them to make your objections to the Action Plan known to the External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner (, and/or write to her yourself copying your letters to your MEPs.

You will find a briefing document attached that explains more about the process of the upgrading and its significance and a sample letter. Below is a list of additional points you may want to include.

To find your MP and MEPs, go to

Please do let the Palestine Solidarity Campaign know the details of any replies you receive.

It is vital that the European Commissioner in charge receives scores of letters from MEPs, MPs and Ministers of Member States pressing her to include detailed points on human rights and the peace process by early January.

To see the current EU-Israel Action Plan, and those of other governments like Egypt, Morocco, Eastern Europe, go to the European Commission's webpage

Additional Points

- Include Article 2 of the Eu-Israel Association Agreement, which says that "Relations between the parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement"

- Include specific concrete actions that should be included (remove the settlements, end the siege of Gaza, signing up to the Additional Protocols of the Fourth Geneva Convention etc)

- Refer to the fact that agreements with other countries under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) include extensive actions that these states have to take on issues like human rights. For example, the EU-Morocco Action Plan devotes more than two pages to democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and includes concrete objectives to be achieved in the short term and in the medium term.

- The new EU-Israel Action Plan will have a knock-on effect on the other ENP members. It will be difficult to convince them to improve their human rights records, if the EU does not require the same from Israel.

- The 1948 Declaration of Universal Human Rights is being weakened by EU’s refusal to apply the same standards on human rights to all the states within the ENP

- The current EU-Israel Action Plan initiates almost no concrete actions related to resolving the Israel/Palestine conflict and does not require Israel to abide by its obligations under the current peace process. The new EU-Israel Action Plan therefore demonstrates the EU’s failure to deal with both sides in an even handed way.

- The agreed establishment of the subcommittee for human rights between EU and Israel does in no way substitute for human rights commitments in the Action Plan that should provide the basis for effective functioning of the subcommittee.

- The Action Plan also needs to include a safeguard clause is necessary to prevent Israel’s application of the benefits of cooperation to settlement activities

Haitham Sabbah is an uprooted Palestinian blogger. He is the webmaster and editor of Palestine Blogs, also webmaster and co-editor of Palestine Think Tank. His personal blog is Sabbah's Blog:

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