Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign

 

Welcome to the Exeter Palestine Solidarity Campaign Website. Last updated: 17 January, 2010

Lobbying the EU on its Association Agreement with Israel

 

1.     Introduction
2.     History and Background
3.     Agreement Content (what to lobby)
4.     Procedures & EU Structure (who to lobby)
5.     Procedures (how to lobby)
6.     Action/Campaign (what you can do)

EU Council Report June 2008 (for reference)

Paris Summit for the Mediterranean 2008 (for reference)


Introduction

This document aims to give an up to date overview of the EU Israeli Association Agreement (EUIAA) for those who plan to lobby the EU.  The ultimate aim is to get the EU to suspend the agreement as long as Israel does not adhere to international law/UN resolutions and does not meet the terms of the agreement itself.  It is however recognised that this objective is politically some way off, so the immediate aim of the lobby campaign is to maintain pressure on the EU to ensure that it focuses its attention on Israel’s violation of the law and the terms of the agreement.

Lobbying is about giving those in the EU who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause the ammunition they need (i.e. keeping them informed).  It is also about keeping those within the EU who are sympathetic to Israel on their toes (i.e. letting them know that their actions are being watched and will be legally/morally challenged).

The document is aimed at people with different knowledge of the agreement, the EU and lobbying.  As such, some of the material may already be known to readers, so the sections have been structured to allow selective reading of only the relevant material.  There are also several references to other more detailed information.  Document references can be found on the Exeter-PSC website (http://www.exeterpsc.org.uk/campaigns ) under the lobbying campaign.
 


History and Background

The EUIAA falls under the auspices of the European-Mediterranean Forum.  The following are some useful/significant milestones.  Relations and trade between the EU and Israel have been improving/growing since Israel’s creation in 1948 showing no sign of political pressure influencing this trend.  However, there has been a noticeable increase in emphasis given to Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinians.  It is this increasingly critical stance of the EU that we want to support and encourage through lobbying.

June 2000
EUIAA agreement comes into force (the second after Morocco a few months earlier), although the agreement was signed and has been in operation since 1995 as part of the Oslo peace process.  Similar agreements exist with many other countries neighbouring the EU.

April 2002
The European Parliament votes to suspend the agreement, the Council of Ministers refused to implement this decision.  Britain, Netherlands and Germany oppose suspension.

2003
Britain and the EU tighten import tax rules for goods from Israel that are suspected of coming from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.  Labelles on goods from these illegal settlements are no longer allowed to be labelled as sourced in Israel.

2004
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)[web] is launched to “support its partners’ political, economic and social reform processes and to deepen bilateral relations with them”.  This is the framework for the EUIAA.

2005
Trade between the EU and Israel is conducted on the basis of the Association Agreement.  It has flourished in the last decade.  The EU is Israel's major trading partner, about 40% of Israeli imports come from the EU, and about 30% of Israeli exports are directed to the EU. It occupies rank number 1 in Israel's imports and rank number 2 in its exports.  Israel is the EU's 21st largest export market, and ranks 28th in source for EU imports.
Israel’s main export categories to the EU25 are machinery (€1.8 billion in 2003), chemical products (€1.5 billion), agricultural products (€0.9 billion) and textiles and clothing (€0.3 billion).
2008
EU trade figures from 2007 show Israel as being one of the biggest EU trading partners in the Euromed area, with total trade with the EU amounting to more than €25.7 billion in 2007 (€11.3billion of imports from Israel). The EU is Israel's largest market for exports and its second largest source of imports after the US.

Israel's main exports to the EU consisted of electrical machinery and electrical equipment (12%), precious stones (16%), chemical products (17%) and vegetable products (10%). Israel’s major imports from the EU were in the same main categories, i.e. machinery and electrical equipment (17%), precious stones (20%), chemicals (14%), as well as in transport equipments (9%).

2008 sees the launch of an initiative by Israel to upgrade its trading relation with the EU.  More information on this can be found under (EU-Israel Council Report Jun08 130708.doc ) < other references to be added as they become available>.


Agreement Content (what to lobby)

 

The Agreement covers many aspects of trade, academic and other areas of cooperation between the EU and Israel.  There are specific commitments on both parties as well as dispute procedures which are of particular interest in lobbying.
The ENP contains an action plan which “sets out commitments by both sides on international and humanitarian law….”, this according to commissioner Ferrero-Waldner (External Relations).   The commissioner was not referring to the EUIAA, but all neighbourhood agreement, it may be useful to remind her that it also applies to Israel as she is seen to be a ‘Friend of Israel’.
Specifically article 2 of the EUIAA states 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."
This is the most common argument made to get the EU to either threaten to suspend or actually suspend the agreement.  Ultimately it is the aim of the lobby campaign, but bureaucrats and officials are used to giving standard replies to this.  Giving specific (and current/relevant) examples of such violations is a powerful way of challenging the EU on its stance towards Israel.
There are several other new points to raise when lobbying.  These include the often strong criticisms by the EU of Israel which can be found in more recent EUIAA Council Reports or EU official’s public announcements (less frequent).  There are also references in the ENP and Mediterranean Summits which make explicit demands on Israel  (both of these are covered below).
For example, according to commissioner Ferrero-Waldner (External Relations); he ENP contains an action plan which “sets out commitments by both sides on international and humanitarian law….”.  The commissioner was not referring to the EUIAA, but all neighbourhood agreement, it may be useful to remind her that it also applies to Israel as she is seen to be a ‘Friend of Israel’.
Mediterranean Summit in July’08
There are no obvious problems with the resulting declaration (Paris summit for the Mediterranean 130708.doc) in terms of either giving special treatment to Israel or ignoring Israel’s behaviour/policies.  Indeed there are a number of references which can be used when lobbying (see the highlighted items).

EUIAA Council Meetings
The ENP’s EU-I Council meet regularly to review progress/issues.  Up until 2007/8 reports were either non existent or very superficial almost trivialising the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

For example the first written report in December 2006 simply contained the following:
“Implementing the Action Plan has begun to help better define the path and framework of EU-Israel relations while enabling the deepening and strengthening of co-operation in a wide spectrum of areas. In the course of implementing the Action Plan, EU-Israel cooperation has developed in the area of political dialogue, promoting trade and investment, justice and security, science and technology including space cooperation, as well as higher education. Furthermore, technical workshops on a large number of specific subjects relating, for example, to preventing terrorist financing, promoting judicial and police cooperation, protecting the environment, combating racism/xenophobia/anti-Semitism have been organised.”

The latest report from June 2008 (EU-Israel Council Report Jun08 130708.doc) references the proposed upgraded EU-I relationship.  This upgraded relationship may well be the way of maintaining Israel’s preferential status within the EU compared to other neighbouring countries, however the council report does make explicit (and significant) demands of Israel re the Palestinians (highlighted). 

In particular item 13, this could simply be yet another sub-committee which never does anything, but it could be an attempt by the EU to focus on this essential point without being diverted/diluted by all the niceties such bilateral relations tend to have at the higher levels of politics.

Other sources of information
For more general background reading on what to lobby see the following links:
CAABU link: http://www.caabu.org/index.asp?homepage=key_issues&article=international_community&detail=eu_israel_association
JFJFP link: http://www.jfjfp.org/campaignfiles/EUAssociation.htm
The Boycott Israeli Goods campaign (BIG) also referred to as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS): http://bigcampaign.org/index.php?page=home
< other references to be added >


Procedures & EU Structure (who to lobby)

 

It is useful to have a basic understanding of the EU structures[web] and procedures when lobbying.  Sometimes it pays to lobby the people in the office rather than just the head of the relevant commission.  They have some degree of influence and are sometimes consulted on details.

In reality any major change in official policy towards Israel will have to be agreed by national governments.  However, the EU has existing mechanisms within the agreements to send clear signals of a possible change.  The EU’s action to change labelling of Israeli settlement goods, ostensibly done for EU taxation reasons, is an example of its ability to act without national government agreement and possibly as a result of lobbying.

The following is a summary of relevant EU structures extracted from material prepared by David Gearing.

Any process to introduce new legislation or amend existing legislation depends on effective cooperation between three institutions:

 
Note that there is a difference between “the Council of Ministers of the European Union” and “the European Council”. The European Council is a meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States of the European Union and the President of the European Commission. It has no legislative powers but can express its wishes as expressions of political will and legislative or executive intent, for consideration by the EU institutions.
 
Presidency
Rotating 6 month term for each member state,  This is less relevant as UK recently had its term.

Trade Commission[web]
A possible avenue especially if lobbying on produce from illegal Israeli settlement.  Until recently Peter Mandelson was commissioner, in 2008 Catherine Ashton was appointed as new EU Trade Commissioner.
   
External Relations Commission[web]
Foreign Ministers of Member States meet under the auspices of the General Affairs and External Relations Council. They appear to be the source of official EU policy on Palestine.  Foreign Ministers are clearly targets for lobbying, although on important political issues like this they probably reflect the views of Heads of State. There is also an External Relations directorate within the European Commission; it does not make policy but must have influence and presumably has some responsibility for implementing EU Association Agreements.

Ferrero-Waldner is currently the External Relations commissioner.  
 
European Parliament
Within the Parliament MEPs do not sit in national delegations, but in multinational political groups. The centre-right European People’s Party and European Democrats, which includes British Conservatives, is the largest political group. British Labour MEPs belong to the Party of European Socialists, the second biggest group. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, where the largest national contingent is from the UK, is third biggest, closely followed by the Green / European Free Alliance which has brought together Green MEPs from 13 countries, including Britain’s two Green members, and nationalist parties, including Plaid Cymru and SNP members. The 11 April 2002 resolution to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement was supported by the Socialist, Liberal Democrat and Green groups, but not the European People’s Party which includes British Conservatives.
 
Proposals, motions or petitions by an MEP are referred to one of the 20 standing committees.  A rapporteur is designated to draft a report for the committee on each topic for consideration at a plenary session of the Parliament. In the case of economic sanctions against Israel the relevant European Parliament Committee is the one entitled Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy. The responsibilities of this Committee include ‘issues concerning human rights, the protection of minorities and the promotion of democratic values’ in countries outside the EU.  In this context the committee is assisted by a sub-committee on human rights.

The EU organisation[web] and contact details is very extensive, so a list of EU key individuals to lobby together with their views is available in < reference to be added >.


Procedures (how to lobby)

There are two basic EU mechanisms which allow the ‘normal’ EU citizen to officially raise concerns or highlight failure to comply to EU regulations.  MEP’s are obliged, as your representative in Europe, to respond to any communication.  This is similar to UK MPs.  Additionally an EU ombudsman and a citizen’s Petition mechanism are available to formally lobby the EU <reference to be added>.
The mechanism for addressing unfulfilled obligations under the EUIAA is spelled out in article 90 (below).  It is not clear if a citizen can contact the Association Council direct and expect to get a reply.  Nevertheless it is always worth a try, certainly writing to the External Relations Commission is the most direct route to instigating such a procedure.
Other, legal, procedures are also available, these are more complex and costly and fall outside the scope of this document.

For general guidelines on effective lobbying see (Lobbying 151106.doc).  In a nutshell it is making a succinct and cogent point or question which the recipient can respond to or answer.  It should be a single and simple point put in a polite (non sarcastic) way.  The best questions are not answered as they would implicate the EU official, so it is worth starting with a question they can answer.

Use sample letters as a guide, do not copy these verbatim.  E-mails are fine, but a written letter still attracts more attention especially for a first correspondence.

A face to face meeting is the most powerful way to lobby, but you need to be exceptionally well prepared and have some experience in not being distracted/bamboozled or indeed doing that to the EU official.

There are several organisations already involved in lobbying the EU.  Many of these are referenced earlier in section 3.  Ideally you should contact one of these to join a current lobbying campaign or at least inform yourself where things stand before embarking on your own action.  Failing this, here are some points to bear in mind.

The most common response to questions relating to article 2 are answered by giving give the same official stance, namely that any sanctions would be counter productive as the EU would lose influence.  This is the official response whether writing to the UK government or an EU commissioner.

Nevertheless it is worth contacting ‘officials’ within the commission at all levels on the following points:

 

It is also worth finding out from your region’s MEPs:

Finally you can pass this information on to others to encourage them to take more direct action.  The more diverse people that make their views known the more influence it has and it only needs 100’s not millions!  Don’t be afraid to discuss this within you family and circle of friends.  If you need help or support you can contact us.