BRUSSELS (Feb. 11)
The European Community is linking its economic and scientific relationships with Israel to political developments in the Middle East, particularly the continuing intifada.
The E.C. Executive Commission announced over the weekend its decision to postpone a scheduled visit to Israel in April by Abel Matutes, the commissioner in charge of Mediterranean affairs.
It is also postponing “until a better opportunity” the meeting of the E.C.-Israel committee for scientific cooperation, at which Israeli and European scientists would have discussed joint projects.
The withholding of cooperation in both economic and scientific spheres is the E.C.’s response to a recommendation by its legislative body, the Strasbourg-based Parliament of Europe, to penalize Israel for its alleged “contempt” for human rights.
The Jan. 17 vote was the first in the parliament’s 33-year history calling for punitive measures against Israel.
Israeli behavior toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was cited, specifically the closure of Palestinian universities and other schools in the West Bank since the intifada started in 1987.
The 12 E.C. nations were urged to protest by freezing funds allocated for scientific cooperation with Israel, notably energy and biotechnology research.
Last month, the E.C. Commission postponed a memorandum for energy cooperation with Israel, which was to have been signed during the visit of Israel’s minister of energy and infrastructure, Moshe Shahal.
Until those developments, scientific cooperation between Israel and the E.C. was proceeding “very positively,” Israeli sources said.
Despite the tough collective measures, however, individual E.C. member states, notably France, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, continue to advance scientific cooperation with Israel bilaterally, E.C. sources said.
According to those sources, any advance in the current peace diplomacy involving Israel, Egypt and the United States would cause the E.C. as a whole to soften its policy toward Israel.