EU, Israel resolve dispute over research funding

imageIsrael will adhere to EU anti-settlement guidelines in order to get funding for research and high-tech

The European Union and Israel reached an agreement Tuesday that will enable the sides to sign the Horizon 2020 scientific cooperation agreement, after an impasse in negotiations threatened to deepen the crisis between the two.

The compromise deal was drafted by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton after marathon telephone negotiations.

Tal Shalev, i24news diplomatic correspondent, reports that the language of the agreement must still be approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel and the EU have been locked in a dispute over the European Commission’s recently issued anti-settlement guidelines that prohibit any EU funding of Israeli entities that operate beyond its internationally recognized borders.

Under the guidelines, issued in July, institutions located inside the pre-67 lines will be asked to sign a territorial clause stipulating that the “occupied territories,” meaning the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, are not part of Israel.

The European Union had rejected Israel’s compromise proposal over the terms for signing the initiative, but following two emergency meetings to discuss the impasse in negotiations, Netanyahu decided late Monday to continue seeking a compromise that would enable Israel to sign the pact.

The initiative, which could provide Israeli research institutes and high-tech companies with hundreds of millions of Euros of funding, has become a major point of contention between the EU and Israel, who have been holding intensive talks over the last few months in search of a formula that both sides can agree upon.

Several weeks ago, Israel gave the EU a proposal in which it agreed to recognize the EU’s guidelines but asked to add a section stressing that recognition of the EU policy prohibiting the funding of Israeli bodies in the settlements does not affect any future border negotiation with the Palestinians.

Over the past few days, the EU rejected almost all of Israel’s suggestions — a move Ravid reported was met by surprise from foreign ministry officials who felt that Israel had shown flexibility and willingness to negotiate to recognize the EU’s policy.

During Monday night’s meeting, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his deputy Zeev Elkin were adamant Israel must not sign, with Lieberman saying this would be tantamount to “capitulating” to the EU.

In contrast, Science and Technology Minister Jacob Perry said Israel could not afford to lose EU investment.

This position was echoed by Manuel Trachtenberg, chairman of the committee for planning and budgeting for higher education, who said failure to participate would be “very harmful for Israeli academia…we would lose large amounts of money, as well as lose access to the most advanced research and development in the world.”

According to Haaretz, Netanyahu has asked to convey to the EU that Israel is willing to negotiate and to find a compromise.

Israel is the only non-European country that was invited to join the Horizon 2020 project, which aims to fuel economic growth and create job opportunities over the next six years, as a full member.

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