logo logo

Israel responded to the EU’s request to convene an Association Council. But not only on human rights

EU News | 21 June 2024

Israel responded to the EU’s request to convene an Association Council. But not only on human rights

by Simone De La Feld

Brussels – The Israeli government has responded to the EU’s request to convene an Association Council to discuss respect for human rights provided for in the Association Agreement between Brussels and Tel Aviv. Israel “is willing to consider” the invitation and “wants to negotiate the agenda,” a senior EU official confirms. But the distance between the parties on the agenda persists.

Tel Aviv’s response will be examined by the foreign ministers of the Twenty-Seven as early as next Monday, June 24. The approval had already been anticipated on June 17 by the Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, during the visit to Israel of the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Péter Szijjártó. In their meeting, the two had agreed that the Jewish state would accept the invitation only once Hungary’s rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union began. Budapest— one of the staunchest defenders in the EU of Israeli military operations from Oct. 7 onward—will take over the leadership of the Twenty-Seven from July 1.

However, “apparently, there is a big misunderstanding on the part of the Israeli government as to what an Association Council is, because the rotating presidency of the EU does not chair an Association Council,” comment qualified sources. The Association Council is the highest-level institution regulating relations between the EU and its most privileged partners with which it has precisely an Association Agreement. As such, it is chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs—Josep Borrell, at least until this fall.

In fact,” the sources go on to explain “consists of two parts. A first part in which “only the High Representative sits at the table on behalf of the EU,” and a second part “in which the member states also participate.” So, it is “completely irrelevant” who holds the rotating presidency, whether it is the current presidency, Belgium—strongly critical of Israel—or Hungary.

An Association Council takes place when both parties agree on a date and agenda. In turn, the 27 member countries must unanimously agree on the date, agenda, and common position. “In its response, Israel did not give any indication on the date,” a senior EU official again lets Eunews know. As for the agenda, the 27 had decided to follow up on the call of Spain and Ireland and convene the Association Council to verify Israel’s compliance with its commitments in the area of human rights protection in light of the war waged in Gaza and the more than 37,000 deaths among the Palestinian civilian population.

Member countries were convinced of the need to hold Tel Aviv to account for its behaviour last May 27, after the massacre at the Rafah refugee camp. According to Politico reports, Israel is reportedly refusing to meet with EU countries for an ad hoc human rights summit, but in the letter, insisted that the Association Council address, “as with any other country, all elements of EU-Israel bilateral relations, including trade, education, and culture.” As well as “topics related to human rights and war.”

 source: EU News