European Parliament passes watered-down Palestine resolution

The European Parliament voted to recognise the state of Palestine on 17 December 2014. [Labour Palestine/Flickr]

The European Parliament has voted in favour of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The final resolution was heavily watered down in order to obtain the support of Europe’s right wing parties. EURACTIV France reports

In a first for the European Parliament, an overwhelming majority of MEPs voted to adopt a non-binding resolution on the recognition of the state of Palestine.

The resolution, passed on Wednesday (17 December) with 498 votes in favour, 88 against and 111 abstentions, out of the total 697 MEPs present.

Members of the European Parliament had previously avoided the thorny subject, as they have no power to legislate on the EU’s foreign policy.

Broad support

MEPs from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Liberals (ALDE), the Greens and the radical left were joined by several members of the Italian Five Star Movement, affiliated with Nigel Farage’s eurosceptic EFDD group, in supporting the resolution.

Gilles Pargneaux, the French Socialist MEP who initiated the resolution, said “this is a major political victory that will help sensitise the European Union’s population and unleash similar movements for recognition in the national parliaments of the different member states”.

>> Read: EU Parliament to vote on recognising Palestinian state in December

The resolution originally proposed by the Socialists enjoyed the support of the Liberals and the Greens, but had to be significantly watered down during negotiations with the rightist groups, resulting in a very cautiously-worded text.

The resolution calls for the “recognition of Palestinian statehood and the two state solution, and believes these should go hand in hand with the development of peace talks, which should be advanced”.

“The final text is weaker than its original formulation, in which we called on the member states to recognise the Palestinian state. But it is an acceptable compromise,” Gilles Pargneaux said.

The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) commented that the final text read more like a resolution on the peace process in the Near East than a call to recognise the state of Palestine.

In the resolution, Parliament reiterated “its strong support for the two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, with the secure State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security”.

MEPs also appealed to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, to “facilitate a common EU position to this end”.

Knock-on effect

The movement for a European Parliament resolution gathered momentum in the wake of Sweden’s official recognition of Palestine several weeks ago. So far, it is the only Western European country to recognise the Palestinian state.

Several national parliaments, including the British House of Commons and the French National Assembly, have already adopted similar non-binding resolutions.

>> Read: French parliament votes for recognition of Palestinian state

Recognition from 135 countries

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

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

New ruling on Hamas

By a quirk of fate, 17 December was also the date on which the European Union Tribunal decided to remove Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations. The EU made itself the target of Israeli anger by saying that the group’s inclusion on the list had been a legal irregularity.

Federica Mogherini’s spokesperson responded that the decision by the Court of Justice did not constitute “a political decision by the governments of the EU member states”. 

>> Read: EU court removes Hamas from terrorist blacklist

Richard Howitt, a British MEP from the S&D group, said “we know this is being discussed by EU foreign ministers and, if the expected debate takes place in the UN, we are issuing a clear signal that European countries should seek to give their support”.

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 joined 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. The EU 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 Helmut Schmidt and Javier Solana, called for a boycott and sanctions on Israel in response to its continued construction of colonies.

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