European Union Adopts Strong and Supportive Statement on Palestinian State

On 25 March 1999, the European Union (EU) issued a strong and momentous statement in support of the Middle East peace process and the rights of the Palestinian people. The statement was adopted by the recent summit of the leaders of the European Union, which was held at Berlin, Germany (Germany is the current president of the EU).

In specific, the statement focused on the Palestinian-Israeli track of the peace process. Accordingly, the EU reaffirmed, inter alia, its longstanding support for a negotiated settlement that would be reflective of the principle of "land for peace" and ensure the security, both collective and individual, of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Most significantly however, and in a very important step forward, the statement conveyed with clarity the EU’s positive position in support of a future independent Palestinian State.

In their statement, the leaders of Europe’s nations reaffirmed the "continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination, including the option of a State". Prior to the adoption of this statement, EU declarations had been limited to support of the Palestinian right to self-determination, "without excluding the option of a State". In this connection, the EU also made an appeal "for a negotiated solution on the basis of the existing agreements, without prejudice to this right, which is not subject to any veto". As such, the Union explicitly stated the unacceptability of any party exercising decisive opposition, in the form of veto, to this inalienable right or the future declaration of a Palestinian State. Moreover, the EU declared it readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State at the appropriate time. This represents important progress in the evolution of the EU’s position towards this impending reality.

The adoption of that statement by the EU summit culminated a series of recent remarks and statements made by representatives of the EU on the status of Jerusalem, including that made by a spokesman of the German Foreign Ministry. Such earlier statements included the Union’s rejection of Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon’s request to foreign missions to halt meetings in Arab East Jerusalem with Palestinian leaders at the Orient House. In response to Mr. Sharon’s communique, Germany’s Ambassador to Israel said that the EU would not stop such meetings. In his message, he stated "The European Union does not intend to change its existing practices over meetings in Jerusalem." Further, the message referred to Jerusalem as "corpus separatum" (separate entity). The EU, along with the overwhelming majority of nations worldwide, has refused to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem, maintaining that East Jerusalem is occupied territory and that the city’s status is unresolved.

The following is the complete text of the European Union’s summit statement on the Middle East peace process, which was also issued as an official U.N. document:

The Heads of State and Government of the European Union reaffirm their support for a negotiated settlement in the Middle East, to reflect the principles of "land for peace" and ensure the security, both collective and individual, of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In this context, the European Union welcomes the decision by the Palestinian National Union and associated bodies to reaffirm the nullification of the provisions in the Palestinian National Charter which called for the destruction of Israel and to reaffirm their commitment to recognize and live in peace with Israel. However, the European Union remains concerned at the current deadlock in the peace process and calls upon the parties to implement fully and immediately the Wye River Memorandum.

The European Union also calls upon the parties to reaffirm their commitments to the basic principles established within the framework of Madrid, Oslo and subsequent agreements, in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). It urges the parties to agree on an extension of the transitional period established by the Oslo agreements.

The European Union calls in particular for an early resumption of final status negotiations in the coming months on an accelerated basis, and for these to be brought to a prompt conclusion and not prolonged indefinitely. The European Union believes that is should be possible to conclude the negotiations within a target period of one year. It expresses its readiness to work to facilitate an early conclusion to the negotiations.

The European Union urges both parties to refrain from activities which prejudge the outcome of those final status negotiations and from any activity contrary to international law, including all settlement activity, and to fight incitement to hatred and violence.

The European Union reaffirms the continuing and unqualified Palestinian right to self-determination, including the option of a State, and looks forward to the early fulfillment of this right. It appeals to the parties to strive in good faith for a negotiated solution on the basis of the existing agreements, without prejudice to this right, which is not subject to any veto. The European Union is convinced that the creation of a democratic, viable and peaceful sovereign Palestinian State on the basis of the existing agreements and through negotiations would be the best guarantee of Israel’s security and Israel’s acceptance as an equal partner in the region. The European Union declares its readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian State in due course in accordance with the basic principles referred to above.

The European Union also calls for an early resumption of negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks of the Middle East peace process, leading to the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978).