Germans to fight Wye, EU linkage

By DANNA HARMAN

JERUSALEM (December 31) - Officials in Germany - which will assume the presidency of the European Union tomorrow - have indicated that they will fight linking Israeli participation in an EU research and development program with implementation the Wye accord.

"Germany sees no connection between Israeli participation in such purely scientific and technical cooperation and developments and the Middle East peace process," an official at the German Embassy in Tel Aviv said yesterday.

He added that the German presidency would seek to finalize the matter as soon as possible, "all the more since Israel's participation in the program is also in the EU's own interest."

A decision on Israel's participation in the R&D; program is to be taken in the second week of January, but the preliminary decision taken last week by a European Council of Ministers working group - reportedly spearheaded by the French - was not to include Israel in the EU's 5th Framework Program.

This means that, among other things, Israel will be ineligible to receive any of the 14.96 billion euros (NIS 53.2b.) in R&D; funding that is to be given out over the next four years, or to participate in joint scientific projects with the EU.

It was under the last German presidency, in second half of 1994, that Israel was given a privileged status in relations with the EU, and it was this status that then served as the basis for both the Israel-EU trade association agreement and the R&D; agreement.

Since 1996, when it joined, Israel has been the only non-EU country to take part in the R&D; project.

"There is a special relationship between our countries, and a vital interest on our part that the Israel-EU relationship works out," said a German official.

Germany is seen by many in the Foreign Ministry as "Israel's best friend" in the EU, and while the presidency does not have more power than any of the other member states, there is a hope that during their six months in the seat, the Germans will work to better the somewhat rocky Israel-EU relationship.

While the question of the R&D; program is prominent, the matter of greatest concern to Israel in the coming months is the question of the EU's attitude toward recognition of Palestinian statehood, should it be declared in May.

German Ambassador Theodor Wallau would not comment on this, saying it is as yet unnecessary for the EU to state its position.

Wallau did say that there is great interest in supporting the peace process, and finding ways of giving it a "material flanking."

In February, Germany will host a follow-up meeting to the Washington donor's conference, at which the matter of allocating the funds donated to the PA will be discussed.

The Germans, besides donating to the PA through the EU, also give some DM 100 million in aid annually. Most of these funds, in recent years, have successfully been directed toward developing and building waste disposal projects in Gaza and the West Bank.

©The Jerusalem Post


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