Pascaline Wagemans

Europe is repositioning itself and becoming more active on Israeli-Arab normalization

As the Abraham Accords came about in 2020, the EU and its members felt an initial reticence to join in on the shared euphoria. While the UK, Israel and the U.S. quickly set up their own cross-partisan caucuses to advance the newly achieved Israeli-Arab normalization agreements, most national parliaments in Europe, as well as the European Parliament, took a more conservative approach and postponed such gestures. Mainly, Europeans feared the Accords would bypass the Palestinians, who vehemently opposed them, even though they suspended annexation. 

Today, Brussels and some EU member states appear to progressively operate a strategic shift. At a national level, the UK was the first to seize the opportunity to be a part of this historical development in the Middle East. The UK Abraham Accords Group was created in September 2021 with the ambition of offering a political platform to members of the British executive and the legislative branches, and allow them to further promote the Abraham Accords. ELNET-UK along with the Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly followed suit, and co-organized, in partnership with the UK Abraham Accords Group, the celebration of the 2-year Anniversary of the Abraham Accords in November of last year. Such event was attended by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as well as over 250 parliamentary, diplomatic, and interfaith representatives from all around the world. In Hungary, the parliament created last year the “Society of Friends,” a cross-partisan caucus chaired by MP Zsolt Németh (Head of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee from Fidesz) with the goal of strengthening ties between Israel and Arab countries. Earlier this year, four German MPs, including Armin Laschet (Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) created a parliamentary group in the Bundestag to further promote the Abraham Accords. 

The repositioning of the EU showed its first concrete signs in March 2023 through a tripartite EU-Israel-Morocco MoU relating to accrued cooperation on water issues. In June, the European Parliament announced the creation of its first cross-party caucus in support of the Abraham Accords: The Abraham Accords Network in the European Parliament (AANEP)

Chaired by Swedish MEP David Lega (from the European People’s Party), German MEP Nicola Beer (from Renew) and Italian MEP Pina Picierno (from the S&D), the Network aims to be the voice of MEPs advocating for the normalization process between Israel and the Arab world, and has already received the support of members from five parliamentary factions, including the ECR and the Greens. 

At a political level, an increasing number of MEPs and European diplomats are advocating for a change of narrative towards the MENA region, and more specifically towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. MEP David Lega publicly called on the EU to officially sign the Abraham Accords, while Austrian MEP Lukas Mandl has suggested that Brussels could potentially offer free trade agreements to Arab nations backing the agreement. 

This perceived change in policy comes at a time of great tensions in Europe. The war in Ukraine has further highlighted some of the major challenges faced by the EU, and calls for innovative and outside the box solutions – the kind the Abraham Accords embody. 

First and foremost, while an MoU between the EU, Israel, and Egypt was already signed in 2022, further involvement from Europe in Israeli-Arab normalization could result in accrued energy trade and help compensate for the loss of Russian LNG. Similarly, European states could benefit from the incredible regional potential in the field of renewable energies, which is becoming increasingly central to the Europe’s long-term planning. Concretely, Europe should look into the possibility of playing an active role in the blue-green prosperity program – an Israel-Jordan-UAE MoU dealing with water and solar energy – or promoting similar initiatives. Additionally, EU backing of the Abraham Accords could result in further stability and prosperity in the region, as well as accrued intelligence and technology sharing, especially in the domain of cyber-defense which is becoming increasingly crucial in modern warfare. This regional stability would in turn help alleviate issues of forced displacement and migration. 

From a Middle Eastern perspective, further European involvement could serve as a unique opportunity to advance peace while promoting new and ambitious cross-regional ventures. The 2022 Lebanon gas deal should act as a blueprint for such purpose. Indeed, while the U.S. served as official mediators, French involvement through its diplomatic and industrial channels played a crucial role in securing this historical agreement. Leading European companies operating in the region such as Total, Siemens, Alstom, Dassault, BP and many others, would be prime partners to develop business diplomacy through cross-regional initiatives such as the Connectivity railway project. This ambitious vision looking to connect the whole MENA region with Asia and Europe through trains could indeed serve as a symbol of European diplomatic and industrial capabilities, and advance peace and prosperity throughout the region. The U.S. led-plan underscores the pivotal importance of the Abraham Accords not only to the region but also on a global scale, and highlights the necessary role Europe should assume in becoming more actively engaged with the Accords. The plan also encourages further Israeli-Arab normalization in particular with Saudi Arabia. The PA has now adopted a more pragmatic approach, entering the U.S.-Israel-Saudi Arabia negotiations, a welcome shift from 2020, that should alleviate European initial concerns. 

The EU and its member states are at a crossroad and must seize the opportunity to join the most promising process that the MENA region has experienced in modern history. This all starts with political will and commitment, the kind which could be best exemplified by officially signing the Abraham Accords and joining some of its most strategic instances such as the Negev Forum. But even more crucially, there is a “need to bring about tangible projects and initiatives that improve the lives of ordinary people across the Middle East,” as expressed by U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). 

The Abraham Accords must include the EU and its members as it carries the shared values of peace, tolerance, prosperity, and bares the promise of a better tomorrow for the Middle East, and indeed for the world. 


About the Author
Pascaline Wagemans is Director of ELNET’s Forum of Strategic Dialogues, Former Deputy Director (2017 to 2022) and Project & Research Manager (2014 to 2017) at the Forum of Strategic Dialogue, Project & Research Coordinator at ELNET (2013 to 2014), and an evidence-based consultant (2010 to 2011) and Business Analyst (2008 to 2009) at IMS Health, a leading global information and technology services company. Ms. Wagemans holds an MA in conflict resolution and mediation from Tel Aviv University, as well as an MA and a BA in Business Engineering from Solvay Business School.