10 December 2004

Israel a European satellite?

The Jerusalem Post has an interesting story detailing the possible integration of Israel into a European sphere of influence:

The European Union said Thursday Israel is among seven nations who will be part of its new European Neighborhood policy, even though the Foreign Ministry said Israel has not yet formally agreed to the EU's "action plan" for membership.

This program offers free access to goods, services, people and capital to countries neighboring the European Union in exchange for economic and political reform on a country-by-country basis.

Israel has been negotiating its terms of entrance for months, with the talks stuck for weeks on one section dealing with weapons of mass destruction.

EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said at a press conference in Brussels launching the new program that through this agreement Israel acknowledges "the need to take into account the viability of a future Palestinian state in counter-terrorist activities."

A Foreign Minister spokesman said that Israel will finally have to decide on whether to accept the plan before Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom attends the Israel-EU Association Council meeting Monday where the plan will be brought for approval.

The EU-Israel neighborhood agreement also means that "Israel clearly acknowledges the role of the EU in the Quartet" that has written the "road map" to a peace plan that is to lead to a Palestinian state. Initially, the Israelis balked at references to the role of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peacemakers.

"Israel has never been willing to make such commitments in writing to any other partner. The same applies to the commitments Israel has entered into concerning" the nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Ferrero-Waldner added.

The "European Neighborhood" accords with Moldova, Ukraine, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are aimed at making Europe more secure by bringing stability and prosperity to volatile regions.

The Ukraine accord is to be implemented once it is clear a presidential election to be rerun December 26 are free and fair, putting an end to the country's political crisis, said Ferrero-Waldner.

She said she planned to visit Kiev after the vote to see "how we can work together" to put Ukraine's neighborhood accord into effect. The EU plans to have "neighborhood" accords next year with Egypt, Lebanon, Armenia, Azerbaij and Georgia.

Ferrero-Waldner told reporters the agreements will create "a ring of friends around the borders of our enlarged EU" that took in Cyprus, Malta and eight ex-communist East European nations on May 1.

She said the neighbors will qualify for easy access to the EU's 450 million consumers, "the biggest single market in the world," if they bring their laws in line with EU rules and regulations.

Does the plan forshadow bolder initiatives by a more unified Europe? Will Uncle Sam have to start eating his freedom fries sans bagels?

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