Thursday, December 23, 2010

Background of the European Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue

By Dr. Alain Gresh

 This document was prepared by Dr. Alain Gresh at the Conference on "The Eurpean Foreign Policy towards the Palestinian Issue" that was held by Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations in Beirut, on 3-4/11/2010
     I would like to speak about the policy of the European union on the Palestinian question, taking into account the fact that before the end of the sixties, it didn’t have a real political influence as «Europe» – each country had its own policy – and was not even trying to have one. It only began to change after the 1967’s war. In 1970, the European Economic Community began a «Coopération politique européenne» which tried, on important questions, and Middle East was one of the most important, to “strengthen their solidarity and helping harmonisation of points of view and a coordination of their attitudes and, when it looks possible, common actions”. [1]

We can divide the positions of Europe in three periods: from 1967 to the Oslo agreement; during the negotiations, between 1993 and the beginning of the second Intifada; the 2000’s.

From the 1967 war to Oslo

     In 1971, the ECC with only six members (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg – Denmark, Ireland and Great Britain were going to join in 1972) adopted the “Schumann document”, by the name of Maurice Schumann, who was foreign minister of France, under Georges Pompidou. It was the first time that Europe took a position on foreign affairs. It was not surprising that it was on Middle East, if we taken account the proximity of the Middle East, the impact of the June 1967 war. At the same time, it was not easy, as the political position were quite different, from the Gaullist France to pro-Israeli positions of Germany or Netherlands. The Schumann document was adopted on May the 13th 1971, by the ministries of Foreign affairs of the Six. [2]

What were the principles accepted:

- the support to the 242 security council resolution;
- the withdrawal of Israel on the 4th of June lines, with minor modifications;
- creating demilitarized zones on the two sides of Israel borders;
- internationalization of Jerusalem;
- the right of return of the Palestinian refugees (or compensations)

     What is striking in this document is the fact that the Palestinian problem is considered only as a «refugees problem». No mention neither of self-determination, nor of the PLO. It will take more or less than ten years to see an important change in the European position, with the Venice declaration (12-13 June 1980) which is mentioning:  “A just solution must finally be found to the Palestinian problem, which is not simply a problem of refugees”. Then we can read the following: “The Palestinian people… must be placed in a position… to exercise fully its right to self-determination. The PLO will have to associated with the negotiation.” But the price for this position, will be to “forget” the right of return…

     In the same time, Venice declaration was historic: for the first time since the 1967 war, the ECC stand not only against any annexation of the occupied territories, but also for Palestinian self-determination and also to include the PLO in any negotiation.

The response of the Begin government was clear cut (15th of June 1980):

     Nothing will remain of the Venice Resolution but its bitter memory. The Resolution calls upon us, and other nations, to include in the peace process the Arab S.S. known as "The Palestine Liberation Organization." The principal component of this organization of murderers passed the following resolution in Damascus, on the eve of the Venice Conference: 'Fatah is an independent national revolutionary movement whose aim is to liberate Palestine completely and to liquidate the Zionist entity politically, economically, militarily, culturally and ideologically.'

Continues here


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