The European Union goes to next week's Middle East peace conference in the US ready to back up an agreement with financial aid, recognizing that without giving Palestinians hope for improved living standards, a political settlement will remain out of reach. The EU, which will be represented by its key Mideast envoys and a number of foreign ministers, is expected, however, to take a back seat to the United States in the diplomatic drive to restart a peace process between Israeli and the Palestinians. "The European Union is a bit on the sidelines for this process. The idea is for the United States to get the two key players together," said Alfred Pijpers, a senior researcher at the Clingendael Netherlands Institute for International Relations. "The European Union will be of great help for financing, and technical assistance and investments and so on, but as far as the direct, so-called peace process is concerned, at this moment I don't see a very immediate and direct activity from the EU side," he said by telephone from Amsterdam on Wednesday.