Spain, Ireland seen tipping balance of bloc towards Palestine recognit

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EU countries have signalled mixed responses to recognising Palestinian state.

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Ireland and Spain’s move to formally recognise a Palestinian state today (May 22) alongside Norway could trigger further declarations tipping the divided balance of the bloc towards those who favour recognition of the territory, commentators said today in reaction.

But Germany remains keen for each country to take a decision on their own terms, and the European Commission indicated it has no role in that process.

The countries are likely to formally recognise Palestine based on 1967 borders on May 28, which comes seven months after the outbreak of the war in Gaza in which at least 35,500 Palestinians and 1,470 Israelis have been reported as killed.

James Moran, associate senior research fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) said it’s likely that Belgium, Malta and Slovenia will follow Ireland and Spain’s moves.

“If five more countries now also recognise Palestine as a state, a majority of the 27 EU countries would be in favour,” Moran told Euronews.

Moran said EU High Representative Josep Borrell could claim that while a common position among member states still needs to be achieved, Dublin and Madrid’s stances today are a “sign of movement toward a clearer political horizon for the Palestinians” and for any “serious future initiative on talks aimed at a two-state solution”.

But a spokesperson at the EU’s foreign affairs department insisted that “recognition [of Palestine] is not a competence of the EU, it’s a decision of two member states and not for us to comment”.

Moran argues that today’s recognition should contribute to restoring “some of the EU’s credibility” with the Arab world, claiming the bloc’s reputation has “taken serious hits” in the past few months, because of “perceptions of double standards” compared to the EU’s stance on Ukraine.

Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter, who has condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza, reacted today on X saying that Belgium must follow the example of Ireland and Spain.

Within the EU, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Hungary, Malta, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden have all previously taken steps to recognition of a Palestinian state. Such moves are opposed by Israel, which has claimed it will “fuel instability” and hinder any peace prospect in the Middle East.

Edouard Rodier, managing director at the Norwegian Refugee Council, dubbed today’s announcement as a “symbolic move” which has been “long overdue”.

“It’s also a concrete flagging to the stronger party, Israel, as well as the Palestinians, that the current situation cannot continue. To have equal status between the two sides is a step towards a peaceful settlement which we are yearning for as humanitarians that now have to pick up the pieces after each new war,” Rodier told Euronews.

Irish lawmaker in the European Parliament Barry Andrews (EPP), also said that today is a “historic” day for Ireland, and the EU must now follow the Irish lead “to have a chance at peace and the two-State solution.”

“Recognition by Ireland alone will not immediately solve the conflict. This is one step in a long process towards the recreation of a political pathway towards peace,” he added.

Other EU countries are also in favour of the two-state solution even though they have different views on how that should be best approached; some like Germany and the Netherlands believe that it should be achieved through direct talks between Palestine and Israel.

German lawmaker Moritz Körner (Renew), chair of the German liberal Free Democratic Party (FPD) party in the European Parliament criticised remarks by the Social-Democrats for Germany (SPD) calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state: “After Hamas brutally murdered, raped and abducted hundreds of people, SPD politicians want to recognise the Hamas state in response. What’s going wrong?”

Keeping a more diplomatic position, the German Foreign Ministry told a press conference today that “every country takes its own position” on the matter.

“An independent state for Palestine remains the goal of German foreign policy, a two-state solution would give Palestinians and Israelis a life in peace, side by side,” the German spokesperson added.

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In Portugal, the new prime minister Luis Montenegro said the country will “not go as far” as Spain unless an EU concerted approach is in place, following a visit from his counterpart Pedro Sanchez to Lisbon trying to gather support for the recognition of a Palestinian state, ahead of today’s declarations.

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