EU envoy: Israeli participation in Horizon 2020 rests on ‘pragmatic’ settlement guidelines

Lars Faaborg-Andersen says both sides are working hard to find a solution which would allow Israel to participate in the program.

October 31, 2013 19:15
2 minute read.
EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen.

EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)

With an early December deadline looming on Israel’s participation in the EU’s 80 billion euro flagship science and technology program Horizon 2020, EU ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen said Wednesday the two sides were seeking a “pragmatic and acceptable” arrangement that would allow Israel’s participation in the program.

Faaborg-Andersen’s comments came on the eve of an event celebrating Israeli participation in previous EU research programs. Israel has taken part in EU research and development programs since 1996, including over the last seven years in which 1,584 Israeli researchers took part in more than 1,300 projects and received a total of nearly 640 million euros in grant money.

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Israel, if it joins Horizon 2020, is expected to pay 600m. euros to participate, something considered a worthwhile investment because for every shekel Israel contributes, it is expected to get back NIS 1.5 in research funds and other inbound investments.

Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020, however, has been complicated by the EU’s publication over the summer of settlement guidelines barring EU cooperation with any Israeli entities beyond the 1967 lines, including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Israel has said it would not join the program unless explicit understandings with the EU were reached on the implementation of these guidelines, and intensive negotiations have been taking place on this matter since August.

“We are currently negotiating modalities for Israeli participation in the program,” Faaborg-Andersen said.

“Both sides are striving for a pragmatic and mutually acceptable arrangement which would allow Israel to join by the time Horizon 2020 starts on the 1st of January 2014.”

Israeli officials, however, downplayed his comments and said they should not be interpreted as meaning an agreement was around the corner.

“This is diplomatice-ese 101, and really says nothing,” one official said.

While acknowledging that the “ball was still in play” regarding Israel’s involvement in Horizon 2020 and that the talks were moving forward, the official said Israel was still waiting to hear what the Europeans would give to ensure that the guidelines would not only aim to prevent EU money from going beyond the Green Line, but also trying to keep Israeli funds from going there as well.

“The EU’s desire to keep EU money from going beyond the Green Line is one thing,” the official said. “But it is something else entirely if they are trying to keep Israeli money from going there as well. The guidelines as currently written make this possible, and we are trying to get commitments that they will not be implemented in this manner.”

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