PM convenes urgent meetings on stalemate over Horizon 2020

EU continues to stick by settlement guidelines that bar the transfer of any money or funds to entities beyond the Green Line.

Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370 (photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)
Ashton and Netanyahu shake hands 370
(photo credit: Courtesy - GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held urgent consultations Monday night to discuss what Israeli officials termed the European Union’s refusal to show the necessary flexibility on its settlement guidelines to allow Israel to join the massive Horizon 2020 project.
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. He was scheduled to hold a second meeting on the matter in the evening.
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.