How the EU directly funds settlements in occupied territory
By EUGENE KONTOROVICH
The EU knowingly and purposefully provides substantial direct financial assistance to settlements in occupied territory – in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, that is.
A delegation of European Union officials arrived in Israel weeks ago to discuss
the European Commission’s proposed regulations for discretionary funding to
Under guidelines prepared earlier this summer, euros
would not be allowed to go to Israeli entities located cross the Green Line – or
to those that have any operations there. All Israeli entities applying for
funding would have to submit a declaration that they do not have such
Europe claims that such a move – unparalleled in its dealings
with any other country – is mandated by international law. The EU does not
recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories, and thus has an obligation
to keep its money from going there. Those who celebrated the move said that
Israel is finally paying the international price for its occupation.
it turns out that despite the guidelines, the EU still knowingly and
purposefully provides substantial direct financial assistance to settlements in
occupied territory – in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, that is. So the EU
funds the occupation of an EU member state. Turkey’s invasion and occupation of
Cyprus in 1974 was condemned the UN Security Council, and the EU’s official
policy is that the Turkish occupation is illegitimate, and Turkey must
completely withdraw. The EU does not recognize the Turkish government in
Nonetheless, the EU maintains an entire separate program
to direct funds to Northern Cyprus.
They even put out a nice, colorful
brochure last year.
The grants are pursuant to a 2006 regulation adopted
by the EU to “end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community,” and allocated
259 million euros over five years, and now operates on an annual 28 million euro
allocation (a sum that amounts to roughly 0.8 percent of Northern Cyprus[‘s
Projects include study abroad scholarships for students at the
numerous Northern Cyprus universities (imagine such funding for students at
Ariel University!); developing and diversifying the private sector through
grants to small and medium- sized businesses; various kinds of infrastructure
improvements (telecom upgrades, traffic safety, waste disposal); community
development grants, funding to upgrade “cultural heritage” sites, and so forth.
They even put on a concert.
The program basically gives grants to the
Turkish business and private entities, and builds the infrastructure of the
occupying government. The EU is doing exactly what its claims, in the settlement
guidelines, international law prohibits.
The relevant EU resolutions and
reports make no mention of any international legal question about such
There are real differences between the EU’s funding policies
toward Turkey’s occupied territories and Israel’s territories: the former is a
much starker contradiction of the principles the Europeans proclaim to uphold.
The settlement guidelines aim to regulate groups based in Israel proper, and
goes out of its way to make sure no money might be incidentally spent in the
West Bank (or Golan or, oddly, Gaza). Yet the Northern Cyprus project is not
simply an outgrowth of standing arrangements with Turkey or Cyprus, but rather a
particular funding program that by definition funds 100% occupation
Indeed, the EU maintains an office in Northern Cyprus to
oversee its over “1000 grant contracts...to NGOs, SMEs, farmers, rural
communities, schools and students,” according to an EU report.
office liaises directly with the Turkish occupation regime in the territory. It
is as if the EU had a direct funding and infrastructure development program for
the benefit of, and run in conjunction with, the Shomron Regional
The Northern Cyprus program is more flagrant in another way. The
settlement guidelines make an exception for activities “aimed” at helping
“protected persons,” an international law phrase meant to refer to the
Palestinians. The Northern Cyprus funding cannot (and does not attempt) to claim
this excuse because the majority of the territory’s population is mainland
So the primary and intended beneficiaries are Turkish
The Northern Cyprus program is only the most glaring example of
the broad EU funding for settlement activity. Agreements just inked this summer
with Morocco would continue to fund its occupation of Western Sahara, for
example. And of course, many European businesses and universities openly operate
in occupied territories, from French oil companies in Western Sahara to British
universities in Northern Cyprus. Yet these companies are not disbarred from EU
funding, while similarly situated Israeli ones would be.
activities have not generated an international legal outcry because in fact, the
standard legal view is that such funding does not violate any rules or
principles. The EU’s novel position regarding Israel is neither the legal or
logical consequence of Israeli activities.
The EU does not treat Israel
like it treats other countries with settlements it considers
This suggests that if Israel abandoned the settlement,
Europe would not treat it like other countries without settlements.
writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, in Chicago. He
is also a Lady David Visiting Professor at Hebrew University, and a senior
fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.