Thursday, 6 November 2008
Dáil Eireann Debate
197. Deputy Seán Barrett asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has satisfied himself with progress in the various EU-Israeli partnership agreements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39085/08]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Deputy Micheál Martin): Israel is a key partner of the European Union in the Mediterranean, and an active member of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The relationship between the EU and Israel is governed mainly by the EU-Israel Association Agreement and its associated Action Plan. The eighth annual meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council was held in June 2008, and the current EU-Israel Action Plan is due to be completed in April 2009.
On specifics, the co-operation between the EU and Israel across a range of technical and practical fields, such as transport, energy and social affairs, has been very good. Indeed, Israel’s highly developed institutional structures and public administration have enabled it to lead the way among Mediterranean countries in many cooperation projects.
With the completion of the current Action Plan in April next, it is logical that its successor will seek to build on and to deepen existing cooperation. In this regard, Israel has presented ideas on how relations might develop further. The EU has agreed in principle to this approach, but discussions on what might be involved have only just begun and will inevitably take some time.
As regards dialogue on political and human rights issues, these form an essential part of the EU’s contractual relations with its neighbours, including those in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Of their nature, this often involves disagreement and hard talking. In this regard, the EU has often been strongly critical of Israel in relation to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the process to reach a viable two State solution, and the rights of the Palestinian people. Importantly, this dialogue has provided the EU with a formal and regular channel to convey its views to Israel on these crucial matters, although of course the issues in question are also raised in many other fora.
The EU has stated that it sees deeper engagement on all these issues as an essential element of the enhancing of EU-Israel relations. This should include a strengthened political dialogue, stronger involvement of the EU in the peace process and in monitoring the situation on the ground, and the establishment of a full and separate subcommittee of the dialogue dealing with human rights issues.
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