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10/12/2016

EU Parliament to vote on recognising Palestinian state in December

Global Europe

EU Parliament to vote on recognising Palestinian state in December

The European Parliament will vote on a motion to recognise the state of Palestine on 27 November. [Hossam el-Hamalawy/Flickr]

EU legislators will vote on a resolution to recognise the State of Palestine in December, it emerged today (25 November). This symbolic event could encourage more member states to address the question. EurActiv France reports

The movement to recognise a Palestinian state is gaining ground in the European Union.

A debate and vote on the resolution proposal was initially planned for November but the vote was today rescheduled for the December plenary session in Strasbourg (15-18 December).

Gilles Pargneaux, a French Socialist MEP and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which made the initial proposal, said the vote was rescheduled “at the request of the European right.”

“If I was personally in favour of a vote as soon as this Thursday, November 27, I understand the importance of giving time to European political groups to draw a homogeneous majority in favour of the recognition of the Palestinian state living in peace alongside a safe Israeli state.”

“The proposal of this resolution in the European Parliament is a first and a historic event,” Pargneaux said.

European momentum

The Palestinian question has come to the forefront of European political debate in recent weeks, following Sweden’s decision to officially recognise the state of Palestine. The Swedish government became the first in Western Europe to do so on 30 October 2014.

>> Read: Sweden recognises Palestinian state

The UK’s House of Commons also adopted a motion asking the government to recognise the state of Palestine in October, followed by the Spanish and Irish parliaments. A similar proposal by the French Socialists is being put forward in Paris.

>> Read: French Socialists push for recognition of Palestinian state

The question has also leapt up the European Commission’s agenda since the arrival of Federica Mogherini as the European Union’s top diplomat.

The Union’s new High Representative for Foreign Policy adopted an ambitious position on the Palestinian question from the outset of her mandate, stating that she would be “happy if the state of Palestine existed within [her] term in office”.

“If this resolution is adopted, it will be a big step for Europe towards the recognition of the state of Palestine, even if the European Parliament does not have the power to make decisions about foreign affairs,” Pargneaux said.

The proposal was initiated by the European Parliament’s Socialist group, but can also expect the support of the radical left GUE/NGL group. They released a statement in favour of the resolution, saying “the European Parliament has a duty to recognise Palestine as various EU national parliaments are doing”.

Various sources have confirmed that the other political groups are still discussing how to coordinate their votes. These decisions will be made by 26 November, the day of the debate.

“I think the resolution has a good chance of being adopted. And if a certain number of member states support it, the Council will have to move,” the French MEP said.

According to Gilles Pargneaux, the radical left, the Socialists and the Greens are broadly in favour of the resolution, whilst opinion among the Liberals and the EPP remains divided.

Even if the Parliament resolution is not binding, it would send out a strong political message to the member states of the EU.

Recognition from 135 countries

A total of 135 countries worldwide now recognise the state of Palestine. Within the European Union, support for Palestine appears to be strongest in the East. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia all officially recognised the Palestinian state before their accession to the EU.

EU candidates Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Bosnia can also already be found on the list of 135 countries ready to recognise a Palestinian state. 

Background

The state of Israel was created in 1948, replacing the British Mandate for Palestine after a conflict that resulted in the flight of at least 750,000 Palestinians.

19 years later, the refugee crisis was exacerbated by Isreal's invasion and occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then annexed East Jerusalem and began constructing colonies in the West Bank, which are now home to 500,000 Israeli Jews.

The EU first intervened in the conflict in 1980 by recognising Palestine's right to self-determination in the Declaration of Venice. In 1986 the EU went further by enacting a regulation that allowed Palestinians in the occupied territories to export products to Europe under the label "Made in the West Bank and Gaza".

The EU deepened its involvement in the peace process with the Oslo Accords in 1993, offering financial support to the embryonic Palestinian authorities, and maintains that any peace settlement must respect the original borders from 1967, which would allow the Palestinians to establish their capital in East Jerusalem. This position has provoked strong opposition from Israel.

In December 2010, 26 former EU leaders, including Javier Solana and Helmut Schmidt, called for a boycott and sanctions against Israel, in response to its continued policy of colonisation.

Timeline

  • 15-18 Dec.:  Vote on Palestine state recognition at the European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg.

Further Reading