The Taoiseach has said that Ireland is in discussion with a number of EU member states who want a review of the EU-Israel Association Agreement on the basis that Israel may be breaching the agreement’s human rights clause.
Leo Varadkar said Ireland is also in discussion over the creation of a group of EU member states to jointly recognise the State of Palestine, so as to create a more equal set of negotiations with Israel in a post-war scenario.
His comments followed today’s emergency EU summit, during which leaders discussed the South African genocide case at the International Court of Justice and the allegations that UNRWA staff had been involved in the 7 October attacks.
There was no formal communiqué (official announcement) after the meeting.
“EU-Israeli relations are founded on an agreement which has a human rights clause, and a lot of us believe that Israel may be in breach of it,” he told reporters. “That’s something we’re talking about.”
“There isn’t full agreement, but it’s something I called for today, and I called for last December.”
He said a review of the agreement would initially require an assessment from the European Commission as to whether or not the human rights clause had been breached.
“One of the values that the European Union is founded on is human rights, and a country that sees itself as a Western as a liberal democracy like Israel, we expect them to uphold those standards,” he said.
The EU-Israel Association Agreement entered into force in 2000. Article 2 states that relations between the parties “shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles”.
EU’s UNRWA funding under review – Taoiseach
The Taoiseach said EU funding of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) was under review following allegations that 12 staff had been involved in the 7 October Hamas attacks.
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told leaders at today’s summit that the next payment of EU funds to UNRWA was due this month.
“That payment may well be made, that there’s no freeze on EU funding, but they will want assurances from the UN that everything is being done to make sure that if there were any UN agents and staff collaborating with Hamas that they’re dealt with,” the Taoiseach told reporters.
Ireland does not currently recognise the State of Palestine, although both Houses of the Oireachtas have voted for the idea.
The Taoiseach said Ireland was willing to recognise it as part of a broader group of EU member states (nine member states currently recognise Palestine).
He said: “We just don’t want to do it in the form of a press release that has no meaningful outcome two or three days later, then you just get called upon to the next thing that has no meaningful purpose two or three days later.
“That’s not the approach that we want. What we want to work towards is a situation whereby there is a ceasefire in Gaza, the killing ends, the hostages are released, humanitarian aid gets in and that a refreshed or reformed Palestinian authority could then take over control of Gaza.
“We can support that and then recognize that as a Palestinian state. A number of EU states acting together to recognize Palestine could enable a more equal negotiation to happen after the war has ended.”