Israel and EU prepare to sign science co-op deal

Top European official heads to Israel to meet with Netanyahu, launch controversial Horizon 2020 agreement

Head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (Photo credit: Georges Gobet/AFP)
Head of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (Photo credit: Georges Gobet/AFP)

BRUSSELS — European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso is to formally sign a controversial EU-Israel research program with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit starting Sunday.

The outgoing head of the European Union executive will hold talks with Netanyahu on Sunday before taking part in a signing ceremony the next day allowing Israel to become the only non-European country to benefit from the EU’s Horizon 2020 scientific research program.

After months of dispute, the two sides finally agreed on a compromise in November enabling hi-tech companies and research institutes in the Jewish state to join the 77-billion-euro program.

Israel had objected to EU guidelines published in July banning funding and financial dealings with settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem from January this year.

The guidelines would have forced Israel to recognize in writing that settlements — which are illegal under international law — are not part of the Jewish state in any future EU agreements.

But after sticky negotiations, it was agreed the EU would appendix an agreement to stop research funds serving institutions in the West Bank, while Israel would add its own appendix stating non-recognition of the new guidelines.

Brussels on Thursday said it was “deeply disappointed” after Israel unveiled plans to build another 3,200 settler homes, and called for the decision to be reversed.

“This move is unhelpful to peace efforts,” the EU said in a statement.

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