Open Letter to the European Union The EU meets Israël on November 20

Press release
en fr

Call for the suspension of the EU/israel association agreement

Dear Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Dear Commissioner for external relations,
Dear High Representative for CFSP,

Since 1st June 2000, the EU and Israel are linked by a Euro-Mediterranean Agreement concerning trade, economy and cooperation. This Agreement establishes a political dialogue with regular meetings taking place between the parties to review its implementation.

Article 2 of the Agreement states that the relationship between the EU and Israel is to be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles which guide their internal and international policy.
Since one year, the situation has deteriorated in an unprecedented way in the Palestinian Occupied Territories (OPTs). Israel’s indiscriminate, excessive and disproportionate use of force violates international humanitarian law, including the fourth Geneva Convention. Intense blanket artillery bombardments and lethal shoot-to-kill policies have resulted in high civilian fatalities and casualties among Palestinian people; that deliberate targeting of civilians amounts to "willful killings" and "willfully causing serious injury," which are defined by Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as "grave breaches" of that Convention.

The UN special Commission of enquiry report of March 2001 concluded that Israel violates a number of provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. and that article 146 calls upon High Contracting Parties to enforce the Convention in relation to those responsible for its violation (Report of the human rights inquiry commission established pursuant to Commission resolution S-5/1 of 19 October 2000, E/CN.4/2001/121, 16 March 2001, para 64).

In its resolution of 25 October 2001 on CFSP, the European Parliament " supports the ’road-map’ proposed by the Mitchell commission for the resumption of the Middle East peace process and repeats its call for a freeze on settlement building in and the sending of international observers to the occupied territories "; and " recommends that implementation of the Association Agreement with Israel and financial aid for the Palestinian Authority should be closely linked to the recommendations of the Mitchell commission "; (paras 19 and 20 - emphasis added).

In addition, in spite of the clear position repeatedly made by the EU about the territorial scope of the EU/Israel Association agreement, Israeli authorities continue to consider that the Agreement covers all the territories under Israeli administration, assertion which blatantly contradicts numerous UN resolutions. Israel’s occupation of the 1967 OPTs, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law.
Israel strangulates the Palestinian economy, notably through its policy of closure, the building of settlements, the destruction of buildings and agricultural lands. As a result, the EU/PA Interim agreement has not produced any benefit for Palestinian people. The EU brings a decisive financial support to the Palestinian Authority and to the Palestinian people, including through UNRWA. That assistance is vital, but Palestinians must also have the possibility to develop their own economy.

The FIDH considers that Israel currently benefits from trade preferences in violation of international law.
In view of the large-scale human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by Israel and in view of the fact that in practice the Agreement continues to cover goods produced in the Occupied Territories (in the settlements), the FIDH calls on the EU to take negative measures under the agreement, such as the suspension of trade benefits.

If sanctions are not adopted under the human rights clause in the present context, it raises questions about the degree of violations which must be reached in order to adopt negative measures under that provision.
Such an approach would definitely be in line with the communication on human rights, adopted on 8 May 2001 by the European Commission: "in all dialogues with third countries, the Commission will in future seek to ensure that the discussion covers issues of concern relating to human rights and democracy" (...) "however a prerequisite for success is that these states are genuinely ready to co-operate. The EU should pursue this approach wherever possible, while recognising that in some cases, the third country may have no genuine commitment to pursue change through dialogue and consultation, and negative measures may therefore be more appropriate".

The FIDH sincerely hopes that you will examine this letter with the utmost attention.

I remain,
Sincerely yours

Sidiki Kaba

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