Thank you for writing to me about the rights of the Palestinian people ahead of the European elections.
As I’m sure you can appreciate, MEPs and MEP candidates receive a large number of survey requests, especially ahead of elections, and we simply do not have the time to complete them all. For this reason, Labour MEPs have a general policy of not filling in surveys.
However, I am more than happy to provide you with some information on the position of Labour MEPs towards Palestine and Israel, which I hope you will find useful when deciding how to vote in next week’s elections.
I fully believe in the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and support the work of the EU’s External Action Service to build up the institutions of a future democratic, independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side with Israel and its neighbours. I also support the EU’s long-standing position of not recognising the Occupied Palestinian Territory as being under Israeli sovereignty and I am pleased that the European Commission is the biggest donor of financial assistance to the Palestinians.
The issue of Palestine is something that Labour MEPs have been active on for a number of years. For example, in 2010 my colleague Arlene McCarthy MEP sponsored a Written Declaration in the European Parliament which called on EU countries to ensure that EU labelling laws are fully enforced so that Israeli settlement products are clearly distinguished from Israeli goods and Palestinian products.
In December 2012 I voted in favour of a Resolution on the Israeli Government’s decision to expand settlements in the West Bank, which was co-authored by my colleague, Richard Howitt, the Labour lead on foreign affairs.
The Resolution noted that the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would undermine the viability of a two-state solution in the region, and that the EU has repeatedly confirmed its commitment to such a solution. The Resolution also reiterated that such settlements are illegal under international law and called for a permanent freeze and for existing EU legislation and EU-Israel bilateral agreements to be effectively implemented, in particular with regards to ensuring respect for human rights in the region.
Labour MEPs have also backed guidelines stating that EU science and research funding cannot be used to fund activity in illegal Israeli settlements, while we voted against upgrading trade relations with Israel. We believe all EU external policy, including trade, must be coherent with our human rights policies and, as the EU-Israel Association Agreement requires relations between the EU and Israel to be based on the respect for human rights, any upgrade to this Agreement would be inappropriate given the current situation.
Unfortunately, a right-wing majority in the European Parliament voted in favour of the upgrade but you may be interested in the interventions of Labour’s lead on the International Trade Committee, my colleague David Martin. David has been outspoken on the issue and you can find his speeches in Parliament:[Speech 1>] [and speech 2>]
Respect for human rights is one of the founding principles of the European Union and Labour MEPs are strongly committed to ensuring that these principles are upheld in all our external relations and to defending the right of the Palestinians to self-determination.
I hope you have found this information useful but if you have further questions on this, or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Glenis Willmott MEP