العنوان هنا
Studies 06 December, 2011

The European Union’s position toward the Palestinian cause: 1993-2009

Keyword

The European Union is considered a major actor on the global stage, playing an increasingly central role on many international and regional issues, especially in the Middle East region. In many instances, this role has appeared to be different, in terms of vision, content, and tools, from that of the United States of America.

It should be noted that Europe was able to draw the contours of a proper foreign policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict as early as 1980, when the European Community issued the Venice Declaration, which was the first official European statement outlining a clear stance vis-à-vis the conflict. The Declaration included an acknowledgement of the Palestinian people's legitimate right to self-determination, juxtaposed with "Israel's right to exist." The statement also called for an end to Israel's occupation of Arab lands, condemning the building of Jewish settlements in occupied territory.

The Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991 was Europe's first appearance as an active actor in the peace process, having officially been given the status of an observer inside the conference, and through active participation in the multilateral committees charged with the discussion of technical issues and matters of common cooperation in the region. By holding the Madrid Peace Conference on its territory, Europe discovered an important shift in the political role it could play in the peace process as it sensed Israel's softening of its previous stance rejecting any European role. The United States, however, quickly marginalized this newfound European role.

The 1992 Maastricht Treaty sought to draw the outlines of drew a unified foreign and security policy for Europe, with the official announcement of the birth of the European Union. The treaty was followed in 1996 by the appointment of a special representative for the Middle East to transmit European proposals and guarantees to all parties in the conflict. Since that date, the European Union has had a policy coordinator who tours the Middle East in much the same manner as American officials with similar responsibilities.

Despite the official emergence of a common foreign and security policy for the states of the EU, and the appointment of a high representative of this policy, these conditions did not lead to the disappearance of national diplomacy, especially those of major member states such as the United Kingdom and France. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that no analysis of the EU position toward the Arab-Israeli conflict can take place without reference to the effort exerted by the European Union to formulate a veritable foreign policy.

The European Union did not cast an independent foreign policy tailored specifically to the Palestinian issue, viewing it instead as part of a more comprehensive policy that includes the Arab region and the Middle East in general. However, Arab states and the European Union have a shared interest in the latter's playing a growing role in the political resolution of the conflict, as opposed to Israel and the United States, which clearly share a desire to limit and marginalize the European role.

To read the full text, click on the image below.