Question by Amin, Lyon, France:
“Hello my name is Amin, I am a student in Lyon. Why doesn’t Europe get more involved in resolving the Middle East conflict?”
Answer by Fabrice Balanche, Director of the Research group on the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Lyon II University, France:
“First of all, Europe is heavily involved financially in the resolution of this conflict, since it funds nearly half of the annual aid to the Palestinian Authority, that’s 325 million euros.
“It’s also part of the Quartet which is trying to resolve this problem, along with Russia, the United Nations and the United States. Catherine Ashton is the EU’s representative. Her problem is that she has to take into account the foreign policies of 27 different countries and that any decision requires a unanimous vote. So, we often only reach a weak consensus rather than strong decisions like the United States, where, of course, power is much more centralised in the hands of one man.
“Also, Israel is quite wary of the EU, which it sees as pro-Palestinian. For example, the United States voted against the Palestinian Authority obtaining observer status at the UN, whereas EU heavyweights such as France, Spain and Italy all voted in favour. The rest abstained and only one country voted against: the Czech Republic.
“So, you have a European Union which is divided over the Palestinian question, but which, nonetheless gives the Palestinians more support than the United States does. So, Israel, which is the other main actor, is wary of Europe and prefers to work on a Middle East roadmap with the United States as a partner.”
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