Dear Mr Carl Bildt,

At a plenary meeting in June, we understand that EU heads of state will consider upgrading political and economic ties with Israel under the EU’s Euro-Med program. We, Swedes, Palestinians and Israelis are writing to you after the yearly three days Sjövik conference dealing with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to request that you make the strongest representations possible to emphasize that such an upgrade is deeply inappropriate at this time.

EU officials have previously emphasized that the importance of maintaining close relations with Israel, at a time when Israel is occupying or blockading Palestinian Territory, is to encourage Israel to adhere more closely to European norms of behavior with respect to human rights, democracy and international law. We must tell you that this policy has yet to bear fruit.

The Barcelona Declaration governing the Euro-Med process - signed by both Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat - commits signatories to:

“Act in accordance with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other obligations under international law…;
develop the rule of law and democracy in their political systems, while recognizing in this framework the right of each of them to choose and freely develop its own political, socio-cultural, economic and judicial system;
respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and guarantee the effective legitimate exercise of such rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of association for peaceful purposes…”

Israel contravenes international law, most obviously through the collective punishment of the population of Gaza and its continuing illegal settlement and occupation policies. Ehud Barak – now Israel’s Defense Minister - said earlier this year that no food, fuel or medical supplies would cross into Gaza without his authorisation. There can be no clearer indication that the blockade of Gaza is a military siege and a collective punishment. Furthermore, in the June 6th editions of Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post he declared that an Israeli invasion of Gaza was now closer than ever – and, specifically – that it would precede any ceasefire currently being mediated by Egyptian diplomats.

Lately, the Israeli government has issued tenders for contracts to build another 850 housing units in illegal settlements. And it has opened the second E1 police headquarters, paving the way for yet more housing units in the police HQ’s previous location in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Ras al Amud in east Jerusalem. The Israeli army denies entry to central Hebron to all but the violent religious settlers, declaring the town a closed military zone for the past six weeks. Checkpoints and impassable roadblocks restricting movement in the West Bank have increased – despite a commitment from Ehud Barak to remove them in order to relieve the “life fabric” of West Bank Palestinians.

We must ask you a rhetorical question: can these be the actions and values for which the EU stands?

The intention to promote such values through closer economic, political and cultural ties is noble in principle. In practice, the EU’s partner shows no respect for the agreements it signs.

Now is the time for the EU to convey to Israel, that the key for upgrading its ties with the EU is to demonstrate by actions that it indeed embraces the goals and values of the European Union.

Now is the time for the EU to assure the Palestinians that it is committed to the principal position the EU has taken in the peace process, (that all Israeli settlement activity “anywhere in the OPT, including east Jerusalem is illegal” and “threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution”)

It is for this reason that we are opposed to upgrading the Euro-Med policy with Israel on June 19th.

We would be grateful if you would convey these serious concerns to EU governing bodies (EU parliament, EU commission, EU council of ministers)

Yours sincerely
The participants in the Sjövik seminar 2008

About 100 persons attended the meeting, freelance journalists from Israel and Sweden, activists, politicians and representatives from organisations such as The Christian Social democrats, Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation (SweFor) The Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden (PGS), The Palestine Association in Stockholm and Jipf, Jews for Israeli Palestinian Peace
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