The Europe-Israel Alliance:
Where Politics and Economics Do Not Meet

Introduction
Europe & Middle East
Israel & EU: Economic Allies
European Platforms on Arab-Israeli Peace
Economic Sanctions
EU & Current Peacemaking
Conclusion


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Europe and the Middle East

Europe has always had a special political and economic relationship with the Middle East, dating back to colonial times.
"Access to Middle Eastern oil has always been a major factor in Europe's relationship with the Arab and Muslim world."
Today, Europe maintains significant economic interests in the Arab and Muslim world and continues to enjoy easy and preferential access to the agricultural products of its former colonies. In exchange, Europe has accorded associate status in the EU to the Mediterranean Middle Eastern states, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey

Access to Middle Eastern oil has always been a major factor in Europe's relationship with the Arab and Muslim world. Europe is heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil; whereas in 1995,Western Europe imported 9.6 million barrels of oil daily, of which 5.5 million came from the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S. imported 8.8 million barrels daily, of which 1.8 million came from that region.

European trade with the Middle East also exceeds that of the United States. In 1995, exports from the EU to the Middle East and North Africa totaled $77.5 billion, or 18 percent of all EU exports to developing countries. U.S. exports amounted to $21.8 billion, only 8.8 percent of total U.S. exports to developing countries. European imports from the region represented
"...the Europeans view themselves as promoters of economic prosperity, political cooperation and peace in the Middle East."
15 percent of imports from developing countries, while U.S. imports represented 6 percent.

In addition to trade, Europe is a recipient of Middle East investment capital and a major supplier of aid to the poorer nations in the region. The total economic aid disbursed by the EU, both collectively and in bilateral donations by its members to the region, totaled $2.8 billion in 1994, as compared to $2.1 billion by the U.S., $0.6 billion by Japan and $0.4 billion by the United Nations. Europe is currently the largest single aid donor to the Palestinian Authority.

In addition, millions of Arab, Turkish and Iranian nationals have immigrated to Europe and have altered the social, cultural, religious and educational milieus of European societies. The influx of these immigrants and their strong ties to their ethnic and religious backgrounds draw European countries even closer to the nations of the Middle East.

Finally, the Europeans view themselves as promoters of economic prosperity, political cooperation and peace in the Middle East. Preferential trade, scientific and technological policies toward the countries of the region are part of the EU’S strategy to forge bilateral agreements with all Mediterranean partners and create a stable, free trade zone among the EU and the Middle East. Specifically, the EU is seeking to create a Euro-Mediterranean Economic Area by the year 2010. At the November 1995 Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona, the EU and the 12 Mediterranean countries with which the EU has association agreements signed a partnership declaration laying the basis for closer political, economic, cultural and social ties.

The Director for the Mediterranean and Middle East at the Directorate General for External Relations of the EU, Eberhard Rhein, summed up Europe’s ties to the Middle East in 1995:

"Europe has strong economic, commercial, political, and historical links with North Africa and the Middle East. From an economic point of view, they are intertwined geographically and politically; they are our back door. It seems self-evident that we should do our -utmost within the constitution of the EU to integrate them, to help them achieve economic prosperity?"



Next: Israel & EU: Economic Allies


This report was published in August 1998

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