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MEPs call for exclusion of Israeli military companies from EU funding

July 27, 2015
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Israeli army] [European Union]

Last week, 73 European MEPs wrote a letter to EU Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and Director-General for Research and Innovation Robert Smits outlining concerns regarding the European research program,  Horizon 2020’s  collaboration with Israeli company Elbit systems, whose military activities are said to be involved in violations of international law.

“Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world,” the MEPs wrote.

“We cannot accept that the public money of our constituents, many of whom may hold similar views, will be used for such purposes. Elbit Systems furthermore participates with the construction of Israel’s Wall, which was ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004,” the letter added.

The letter notes that the United Nation’s Special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories in 2012 called for Elbit to be boycotted. It highlights too the increasing support the European electorate have for Israel to abide by international law.

“Public opinion is dramatically shifting towards an ever stronger call for accountability and against cooperation with companies involved in Israel’s violations of international law and for a military embargo,” the letter read.

“We believe it is our duty to ensure public money is spent on projects that promote the values and principles of the European Union and respect its general commitment to upholding and promoting international law, as set out in the Treaty of the European Union.”

Elbit Systems technologies have been developed during the course of Israel’s military campaigns; the company markets its technology as “field tested.”


Palestinian civil society and stop the Wall report

The EU MEPs’ cross-party initiative comes after an appeal from Palestinian civil society organisations and trade unions, which called on High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini and President of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker to exclude Israeli military companies from EU research programmes.

The appeal asked that Israeli military and national security companies be excluded from funding as part of what participating organisation said was a necessary step towards the promotion of human rights for Palestinians. The appeal charged that cooperating with Israeli security companies represents support of Israel's continued violations of international law.

A Stop the Wall report titled “Supporting Israeli apartheid: EU funding for Elbit Systems” suggests that the EU’s relationship with Elbit Systems may be an example of EU complicity with Israeli violations of human rights.

The report discusses the company’s participation in the Horizon 2020 process, in particular the Horizon Space program, and details how Elbit Systems and other Israeli military and security companies are applying and have been approved for participation in Horizon 2020.

In 2014 over 60,000 people including Nobel Laureates, artists and public intellectuals issued a letter that called for an immediate military embargo on Israel. The letter says that, “Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world.” 

Their call also noted that funding for programmes affiliated with the conflict would risk contradicting the standards and policies of the EU and its member states, including the EU’s general commitment to upholding and promoting international law, as set out in the Treaty of the European Union.


EU - Israel Agreement

Over one year ago the agreement for research collaboration between the EU and Israel was signed by Yaakov Perry, the Israeli Minister of Science, Technology and Space and Lars Faaborg-Naderson, the head of the EU delegation to Israel allowing Israel the same access to EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020 that is afforded to other EU member states.

Boasting a budget of over 80 billion euros, the programme is the largest EU research and innovation plan. Its signing was overseen by EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Barroso applauded the partnership, describing Israel as a leader in science, Haaretz reported.

“Israel is a strong player in research and innovation and for this reason an important partner for the EU to address societal challenges of common concern, such as ageing, food safety, environment protection or cleaner energy, and to strengthen the competitiveness of our industries,” Barroso said.

The deal had initially faced problems when the EU insisted that no funding be used inside territories seized during the six day war, including the West Bank and Gaza, a clause which Israel initially contested, but ultimately acceded to.

A joint statement was released in November 2013 following talks between the EU high representative Catherine Ashton and Israeli Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni, settled the matter with Israel agreeing to take part an align itself with EU policies that adhere to international law by respecting, "the EU's legal and financial requirements while at the same time respecting Israel's political sensitivities and preserving its principled positions."

The EU policy of non-participation with projects taking place inside the occupied territories is aligned with general international legal principles and norms set out by the Fourth Geneva Convention and several UN resolutions. The particulars of its policy is documented further in its publication, “Guidelines on the eligibility of Israeli entities and their activities in the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967 for grants, awards and financial instruments funded by the EU from 2014 onwards.”

The Israeli Directorate for the European Research Area reports that 162 projects involving Israeli participants were approved under Horizon 2020 amounting to a total value of over 420.3 million euros. Israel alongside Switzerland and Norway are among a small handful of non EU member states that have been involved in EU research programmes as associate countries. 


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