PM orders continued diplomacy with EU over Horizon 2020

Netanyahu instructs Foreign Ministry, Livni to find last-minute compromise over academic cooperation project.

November 26, 2013 14:05
2 minute read.
Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset during a special Yom Kippur War ceremony on October 15, 2013.

Netanyahu speaks at the knesset 370. (photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has ordered continued Israeli negotiations with the European Union to reach a understanding that would allow Israel to participate in the academic cooperation Horizon 2020 project.

At the culmination of late night consultations Monday night, the premier instructed the Foreign Ministry and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to try to find a last-minute compromise with the EU in light of its refusal to show flexibility on its settlement guidelines to allow Israel to participate in the scientific cooperation project.

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Israel and the EU have been in intensive talks since August looking for a formula that would enable Israel’s participation in the flagship EU Research and Development program.

This is in light of EU settlement guidelines published in June barring the transfer of any money or funds to entities beyond the Green Line, including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The guidelines stipulate that every agreement between the EU and Israel must include a clause saying that it is not applicable beyond the Green Line.

Israel has said it would not join the 80 billion euro program – Jerusalem would be expected to pay some 600 million euros into the project with the expectation of receiving 900m. euro back in research grants and investments – unless explicit understandings with the EU were reached on the implementation of these guidelines.

Earlier this month Israel presented a number of conciliating proposals to the EU, including one stating that while Israel accepts that the EU would not fund beyond the Green Line, it wants to add a clause that this should not be seen as prejudging a final agreement with the Palestinians.

Israeli officials said Monday, however, that the EU essentially told Israel that while they would like Israel’s participation, the “guidelines are what they are,” and that the decision to join the program was in Israel’s hands.

“They only showed flexibility on marginal issues,” one official said, adding that a decision whether to accept the conditions had to be made at the political level.

European sources disputed this reading of the situation, saying that the EU did show “flexibility” and was looking for a “pragmatic way of implementing the agreement.”

At the same time, one European source said, the EU did not want to be seen as granting a “victory” on this matter to Netanyahu or appear to the European public as backing down from its principles.

Netanyahu met on the matter Sunday afternoon with Education Minister Shai Piron, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri.

One idea that is being considered, if Israel does not join the project, is to invest the 600m. euros directly into Israeli academic institutions and R&D projects.

Various academic bodies, such as the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, have implored the government to sign the Horizon 2020 agreement, arguing that not to do so would be a huge blow to Israeli research.

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