Daniel Rosehill

Ireland’s attempt to have Israel ‘kicked out’ of the EU explained

The flag of the European Union (EU). Image: PickPik.
The flag of the European Union (EU). Image: PickPik.

Ireland recently decided to team up with Spain in an attempt to have Israel “kicked out” of the EU. 

Here’s a quick explainer as to what this is about.

What’s Ireland trying to do?

Ireland is trying to have the EU-Israel Association Agreement rescinded. It is doing so upon the basis of a clause (article 2) that commits both parties to the respect of human rights and the upholding of democratic principles. Ireland is charging that Israel is in breach of that, according to their interpretation. 

In full, article 2 reads that:

“Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.”

What is the EU-Israel Association Agreement about?

Clearly, Israel isn’t a member state of the European Union (EU). 

However, Israel is part of a grouping of nations known as the ‘Southern Neighborhood’; those which are proximate to the EU landmass and which enjoy commercial relations with Europe.

The EU-Israel Association Agreement is a framework that underpins much of the ties and trade between Israel and the EU. Trade relations between Israel and the EU, for example, are governed by a Free Trade Area that was established on the back of the Agreement.

The Agreement provides for official cooperation and dialogue between Israel and the EU. Agreements like the Open Skies Agreement were, in part, built on the back of the framework. Other agreements like Horizon 2020 were more easily concluded because of the existence of the broad-reaching Association Agreement. 

What is the Barcelona Process?

The Barcelona Process established the Southern Neighborhood in 1995 and formalised cooperation between the EU and countries close to its borders. Other nations at the inauguration of the Southern Neighborhood included Morocco and Libya.

What would happen if Ireland and Spain’s review were “accepted,” so to speak?

That’s open for debate but the Irish media is spinning the push as the first move towards formal economic sanctions against Israel being imposed by Europe.

An article reporting on the development in The Irish Independent was headlined: “Ireland and Spain take first European steps towards economic penalties on Israel over war in Gaza.”

Ireland asserts that it is merely asking the EU to “look into” the issue of the human rights clause. But it’s pretty clear that its intentions for doing so are solely fixated on trying to find grounds to suspend the Agreement on that basis. 

How much trade does Israel do with the EU?

Israel’s trade relationship with the European Union (EU). Source: European Commission.

According to the European Commission, the EU is Israel’s largest trading partner accounting for more than a quarter of its trade in goods in 2022. However, the EU also imported €17.5BN worth of goods and €6.9BN worth of services in 2022 and 2021 respectively. 

Does the Irish-Spanish effort have any chance at success?

Basically, no.

Although the European Commission has said that it will be happy to look into the issue, suspending the Agreement would require a unanimous vote of all 27 EU member states. Given the support shown by several European nations towards Israel, this possibility seems almost impossible.

Embed from Getty Images

What’s the point then?

Pushing for trade sanctions against Israel at EU is a good way for the Irish Government to make it look like they are doing something “about” Israel that goes beyond mere rhetoric and condemnations.

Hostility towards Israel in Ireland is extremely widespread and the push for economic sanctions – along with a complete boycott – has been made by several factors in government. Even Ireland’s Prime Minister recently opined that it would be reasonable for Israel to be “expelled” from sporting and cultural events.

I thought Ireland was a “neutral” country?

Nobody but the Irish seem to understand what this means.

What is Israel going to do about the push?

Probably nothing as it seems like an extremely unlikely attempt.

However, the move to harm a substantial part of Israel’s economics is an exceptionally hostile position.

The increasingly hardline position which Ireland is pursuing vis-a-vis Israel is drawing increasing attention worldwide, including from those driving job creation in Ireland.

The Irish may find themselves cutting off their nose to spite their face and appease incredibly high hostility to Israel with futile attempts not supported by their European partners. 

About the Author
Daniel Rosehill is a marketing communications consultant based in Jerusalem specializing in assisting technology and public sector clients with developing and executing thought leadership-based approaches to inbound marketing. To learn more, visit:
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