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EU promises Israeli participation in Horizon 2020 project

January 30, 2014 at 10:00 am

A senior official from the European Union has visited Israel to inform the government that it will find a solution to ensure Israel’s participation in the scientific Horizon 2020 project, Haaretz newspaper has claimed. This is in spite of EU restrictions on dealing with Israeli companies and research centres operating in the illegal West Bank settlements which takes effect in January 2014. The EU ban on such dealings threatens to lose Israeli research centres around $200 million.

Europe-Israel discussions regarding Israel’s participation in the 2020 project stalled when the EU approved the economic restrictions on Israeli companies and research centres in the West Bank. The European guidelines dictate that any future agreement with Israel should make it clear that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights, are not part of Israel and therefore not covered by EU-Israel agreements. Since then, talks over Israel’s participation in Europe’s largest scientific project turned from a technical issue to a complex political matter, especially as a few Israeli research centres likely to join the project are active in the settlements.

According to Haaretz, Israel and the United States are exercising “tremendous pressure” on EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton to relax the new restrictions. Israel has also threatened that it will not join the European project if the restrictions remain in place. The newspaper said that Ashton was scheduled to deliver the draft project to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs two weeks ago with clarifications of the restrictions and the proposed agreement but decided to postpone the trip so that leaks could be avoided, which might damage the discussions.

“A high-level European delegation is scheduled to arrive in Israel next week,” said Haaretz, “headed by the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, who will meet with senior officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Science.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel said that the latest bone of contention with the EU is the demand that Israeli companies wishing to take part in Horizon 2020 should state publicly that they are not active in the settlements and occupied Palestinian territories.