Andreas Reinicke, the EU’s Middle East envoy, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that he was “confident” Israel and the EU would come to an agreement regarding the EU’s settlement guidelines that would enable Israel’s participation in the lucrative Horizon 2020 project.
Reinicke’s comment comes as the two sides face a late November deadline by which the technical details would have to be worked out, without which Israel would not be able to take part in the EU program.
In the summer, the EU published guidelines that call, among other elements, for Israel to sign a “territorial clause” before entering into any new agreements with it.
This clause would specify that the agreement is inapplicable in east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
Israel interprets this as an attempt to get it to sign a waiver of claims to these areas before being able to enter agreements with the EU, and has said it would not join Horizon 2020 under those terms.
Israel, if it participates in Horizon 2020, is expected to invest some 600 million euros in the flagship EU research and development program over the next seven years, and get back some 900m. euros in inbound grants and investments.
Israel has taken part in the major EU R&D project since 1996.
One Israeli official said that while the Europeans were unlikely to change the language of the guidelines – which bar any EU cooperation with Israeli entities beyond the Green Line – the focus now is on the interpretation of that language.
The official said that the way the guidelines were formulated made it possible to interpret them either “strictly” or “leniently,” and that Israel was looking for guarantees that the interpretation would tend more toward the lenient approach. The official agreed with Reinicke’s confidence that an agreement on the issue would be reached, saying that numerous European governments have made it clear that they want the issue resolved to enable continued Israeli participation in EU projects.
Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Reinicke said the EU – which took part last week in a meeting of the Middle East Quartet in New York – was “pleased with the apparent seriousness of the discussions, and with the declared aim to come to a permanent status settlement to end the conflict.”
Reinicke, who attended the meeting in New York, said that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat together briefed the delegations from the US, EU, Russia and the UN on the progress in the negotiations.
He said that this type of joint Israeli-Palestinian briefing had not taken place for years.
Asked whether, as Livni has maintained, the start of the negotiations has itself helped Israel’s standing in Europe, Reinicke said that “for the moment people respect and recognize that something serious is going on. Obviously we know that at a certain point in time, decisions will have to be taken. People will not be happy just with a negotiating process, it has to lead to results.”
The envoy, who served for three years in Syria before taking up his current post in 2012, said that “for the moment” there was a “different rhetoric” coming out of Europe.
“The negative trend that had developed, with people asking ‘Why has there been nothing going on,’ has slowed down if not stopped for the time being,” he said, before adding the caveat, “but in the end results [are] what count.”
Reinicke did not answer either way when asked whether he has been told to expect a major policy speech on the Palestinian issue when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on Sunday night.
Government officials said Netanyahu was unlikely to “break any new ground” in that speech.
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