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May 23, 2003

There is a spectre haunting Europe: Israel might apply for admission to the EU

Israel in the EU

This piece presents a fuller exploration of a recent post which suggested that Israel might apply for admission to the EU. What are the ramifications? The pros and cons of such a course of action? How will an anti-semitic, arab-filled Europe react to a request to join?
Israel hasn't actually submitted an application to the European Union, or made any formal declarations demonstrating their intent. What this amounts to is the high-level gossip one picks up from the ambassador cocktail parties that journalists are now and again privy to. Nonetheless it makes for a good story.

Since there has been no official statement of interest, there is of course no official EU reaction either, although some members of the largely uninfluential and unimportant European Parliament have signalled reciprocal interest in the idea. According to the article, the Italian minister who was most vocally interested was a member of the Transnational Radical Party, clearly not representative of the opinions of the powerful or influential.

The largest concern for the European Union, obviously, would be security. Admission of Israel would amount to an acceptance of some level of collective responsibility in protecting Israel, and brokering peace between Israel and its neighbors in the event of renewed conflict. This is an area that Europe has been loathe to get into, letting the US assume the responsibility for forcing peace accords between its 'client state' and the Arab states.
....I heard the Russian ambassador to the UK speaking at the London School of Economics, and someone asked him about the prospects of Russia joining the EU. An old Cold Warrior, he laughed and said that for this to happen 'it would be like the EU swallowing the whale.' Israel, while small, modern, and economically advanced, comes with such a large raft of problems the same expression might well apply to their potential accession. But if the prospect of EU membership could transform Eastern Europe in ten years, perhaps the gamble of granting membership would be worth the peace it's capable of creating.[more]