Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Commission Services

Q1.  What should be the objectives of EU policy in the Middle East Peace Process?

  The objective of EU policy is to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict, working in co-operation with the Parties. In this way, the EU works to contribute to an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the creation of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbours in peace and security. This would offer the chance for Israel, the Palestinians and other regional partners to consolidate peaceful relations.

Q2.  How effective have the EU's relations and activities been in supporting the Peace Process and in influencing the actors in the region, in comparison with the bilateral relations of individual Member States? To what extent are the roles of the EU and the Member States complementary?

  The EU has played a key role in supporting the Middle East peace process. It has a well defined policy stance on the key issues including borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees etc. As a member of the Quartet, the EU is at the heart of political discussions on the peace process and is a co-originator of the 2002 performance based "Roadmap" to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Therefore, it is well placed to influence actors in the region.

  We also have close cooperation with the NGO and civil society sector, which should not be underestimated. The EC's "Partnership for Peace" programme helps create the conditions for re-launching the peace process. We funded one of the partners who drafted the Geneva initiative (the Palestinian Peace Coalition Association).

  Our activities are complementary to the activities of individual Member States thanks to close coordination both in Brussels and in the region. EU Foreign Ministers discuss the peace process at their monthly Council meetings and, in the region, one example of coordination is the "Governance Strategy Group" which brings together EU Member States with other institutions in order to promote harmonisation of donors' procedures as well as improved integration of donor projects with priorities of the Palestinian Authority.

Q3.  What is your assessment of the effectiveness of existing instruments in achieving EU objectives? What other instruments, if any, does the EU need to be effective in the Middle East Peace Process? How could the available instruments be used more effectively to achieve these objectives? Are the EU's policies and instruments coherent?

Q4.  How successfully has the EU operated in the framework of the Quartet, and with its individual members, especially the United States? How effective is the EU participation in the political process, given the constraints on dialogue with and amongst key parties in the region?

  The EU is well equipped to engage regional partners on both political and practical issues. Regular, structured political dialogue is complemented by discussions on a range of issues such as trade, energy, environment, education etc, depending on the priorities of the country concerned.

  In the case of the Arab Israeli conflict, the EU is perceived as having a balanced position. This, in combination with its trade, political and practical assistance, increases its credibility in this area. The EU, as the largest trading block in the world and the largest donor to the Palestinians, offers a range of relationships to the Parties which can not be replicated by Member States acting alone.

  For example, in recent years political dialogue between the EU and Israel has intensified, in the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Commission considers that the broadening of this dialogue as well as the increased trust in this bilateral framework have contributed to greater openness and a willingness to engage on more controversial issues in the context of the peace process. A concrete example is the deployment of the EU's Border Assistance Mission at Rafah where the EU is, for the first time, involved in a matter directly related to Israeli and Palestinian security.

  A similar framework exists for political relations with the Palestinians and we maintain close contacts with the Office of President Abbas and other independent authorities. However, since the formation of a government in 2006 which did not respond to the three Quartet principles EU Member States decided to suspend political contacts with that government. This policy of "no contact" has limited our dialogue with Palestinian interlocutors.

  As a member of the Quartet, the EU supported its recent revitalisation and maintains close contact with its partners at both Principals and Envoys level.

  The other members recognise that the EU is able to deliver effectively on the ground, in a variety of ways. In 2006, we created the Temporal International Mechanism (TIM) to channel international donor support directly to ordinary Palestinians, after a decision was taken not to engage with the Hamas government.

Q6.  How well adapted are the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the Euro-Mediterranean (Euromed) Partnership to supporting the EU's policies on the MEPP?

  The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership has been a key framework for relations between the EU and its Mediterranean partners since 1995. It makes a direct contribution to supporting the EU's policies on the MEPP not least through the meetings of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the 37 Euro-Med countries. In the current difficult circumstances the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership assumes even greater importance as a unique and inclusive structure of regional cooperation on political and security issues, with several important partnership-building measures already in place.

  Since 2004 our European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) has provided for deeper bilateral relations with our neighbours, covering all policy areas. It also allows the EU to address certain issues which arise between partner countries. The EU's interactions with countries in the Middle East, through the ENP, directly contributes to the creation of an environment which facilitates dialogue such as for instance The common elements between the ENP "Action Plans" for Israel and for the Palestinian Authority. In addition, the ENP Action Plans with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority include commitments on regional co-operation in various fields, and this has already borne fruit.

Q7.  What contribution have EU operational missions (eg EU COPPS, EU BAM Rafah, election observation missions) made to achieving EU objectives and advancing the Peace Process?

  Through the Border Assistance Mission (EU BAM Rafah), Member States have seconded police and customs experts and the European Commission provides equipment and training. Regrettably, the Rafah crossing point has been closed for 80% of the time since the kidnap of an Israeli soldier and the launch of Israeli incursions into Gaza in June 2006.

  The EU Police Mission in the Palestinian Territories (EU POL COPPS) aimed at building up the capacity of the Palestinian civil police which would make a major contribution to law and order, but its operations are suspended under the decision to restrict political contacts with the Hamas government.

   The EU deployed the largest Election Observation Mission for both the January 2005 presidential election and the January 2006 Legislative Council election in the West Bank and Gaza. This EU monitoring activity has increased confidence in the democratic process, helping to increase accountability and trust in the electoral institutions.

Q9.  What steps can the EU now take, including economic steps, to assist a return to and implementation of the Peace Process in the short and medium term? How far should the Peace Process be renewed or should we move to the final status negotiations?

  Regarding economic steps, clearly progress in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians would lead to economic development in the Palestinian territories. The reverse is also true; economic development would bring stability and space for negotiations.

  This is why we believe that the proper implementation of the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access (AMA) is crucial. If people can not move to and from the Palestinian Territories, or even within the West Bank, people are separated from their places of employment. If goods can not move to and fro, the Palestinian economy is crippled and indeed the Israeli business community is unable to access the market offered in the Palestinian Territories.

  Regarding renewal of the peace process, the EU supports the resumption of negotiations between the Parties. The Roadmap adopted by the Quartet remains valid. We consider that discussion of final status issues (such as borders, Jerusalem, refugees and settlements) is necessary in order to mobilise both populations behind a return to negotiations.

March 2007

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