Home EU Agencies Spain and Ireland ask European Commission to examine deal with Israel
EU Agencies

Spain and Ireland ask European Commission to examine deal with Israel

(FILES) Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) speaks with Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar prior to the start of a EU leaders Summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on October 26, 2023. Spain and Ireland on February 14, 2024 asked the European Union to "urgently" examine whether Israel is complying with its human rights obligations in Gaza under an accord that links rights to trade ties. The Spanish and Irish prime ministers Pedro Sanchez and Leo Varadkar sent a letter to the European Commission urging it to "act urgently on the Gaza crisis". (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

For The Guardian, this is “a completely unusual approach, which risks generating additional divisions within the European Union”.

On Wednesday February 14, the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, announced that they had sent a letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, as well as to the head of diplomacy of the EU, Josep Borrell. In this three-page long missive, details the British media, the two leaders requested “an immediate assessment of Israel’s compliance with human rights obligations provided for in the framework of a trade agreement with the EU” . This is the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which entered into force in 2000, and which constitutes the main basis of commercial relations between the Jewish state and Brussels.

“We call on the Commission to urgently examine whether Israel is respecting its obligations, notably under the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which makes respect for human rights and democratic principles an essential element of the relationship, ask the two heads of government in the letter. And if it considers that there is a violation, it should propose appropriate measures to the Council for examination.”

For the Spanish daily El País, this initiative has a certain importance, because it is “the first time that the idea of revising this agreement has been put on the table”. As the Madrid newspaper then recalls, trade between the EU and Israel is very important for the Jewish state, since “31.9% of Israeli imports come from the EU, and 25.6% of its exports are intended for this”. Based on the 2000 text, which stipulates that “respect for human rights and democratic principles” must be “an essential element”, the two leaders would therefore consider denouncing an agreement which regulates commercial relations with Israel, with what that would imply in terms of economic consequences for Israel.

Ursula von der Leyen too close to Israel?


However, the chances of such an approach succeeding seem slim, since if Madrid and Dublin are historically countries close to the Palestinian cause, other EU heavyweights, like Germany, are very attentive to protect their relations with the Jewish state. What’s more, “the head of the community executive, Ursula von der Leyen, is perceived as close to Israel’s positions,” notes El País, which could make a positive response from the Commission to requests from Madrid and Dublin.

In any case, while waiting for a direct response from Josep Borrell or Ursula von der Leyen, the Guardian must content itself with reporting the rather lukewarm response from a Commission spokesperson. He simply recalled that the EU is committed to “respecting international law and ensuring that perpetrators of violations of international law are held accountable for their actions”, and also that “the EU constantly emphasizes the importance of ensuring the protection of all civilians at all times, in accordance with international humanitarian law”.

This article is originally published on courrierinternational.com

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