A Call for Close Cooperation between the EU and Japan in the Middle East
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
Together, the European Union (EU) and Japan have a population of over 500 million people and their combined GDP accounts for over 40% of the world total. Based on these two factors alone, cooperation between Japan and the EU is not only essential but could be incredibly persuasive. In 1991, Japan and the EU set the groundwork for increased collaboration by signing a Joint Declaration between Japan and EC and Member States at The Hague. This declaration established the basic guidelines for an integrated system of dialogue and cooperation in three main areas: (1) political dialogue; (2) economic and trade cooperation; and (3) cooperation on common challenges. The Japan-EU Summits held annually ever since have reinforced this commitment. In particular, the 1999 Bonn Summit served to strengthen this intent between the two by broadening and deepening their partnership to include the promotion of global peace, stability and prosperity as a primary objective.
The purpose of this section will be to introduce specific issues that relate to the three main themes of cooperation highlighted above in order to spur further collaboration between Japan and the EU towards the goal of creating a more just, prosperous and peaceful world.
With this in mind, today's article will focus on an issue that has plagued humanity for over fifty years and currently beckons the active and coordinated involvement of Japan and the EU. There are likely few places more in need of Japanese-EU cooperation than in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Additionally, for Japan and the EU, there are likely few places where the vital interests of both coincide.
Considering that Japan and the EU have been the main sources of aid behind the Middle East Peace Process since 1993, their stake in the destruction and misery that takes place in the region is of considerable importance. Since 1994, the EU has provided over 50% of international community finances for the West Bank and Gaza. Between 1993 to 2000 Japan committed approximately $700 million dollars in grant aid to projects earmarked for the Palestinian Territories accounting for more than 20% of all international contributions. Both have also allocated billions of dollars to so called 'other parties in the peace process' which include Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel. Like the EU, Japan has also invested extensively in the political arena hosting several Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee meetings and chairing two multi-lateral working groups. In addition to this, both the EU and Japan have provided over a billion dollars to UNRWA projects combined. Having demonstrated such a high level of financial and political commitment to the peace process, both stand to lose when the conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories escalates. Nevertheless, despite the obvious loss, the two are finding it difficult to play a convincing role in the effort to restore calm and hope in the region.
It is time for Japan and the EU to coordinate their efforts in relation to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in order to stop the killing and destruction. Unfortunately, close coordination between the two has yet to materialize. When Chris Patten called for "resolute and concerted action in order to help re-open the way to political negotiations" in his recent speech to the Plenary Session of the European Parliament (February 5, 2002), he failed to mention Japan in his list of collaborators that included the EU, UN, US, the Russian Federation and Arab countries most concerned. Fortunately, the Japanese government has recognized that it must remain engaged in the conflict and just yesterday (April 02) sent Mr. Hiroshi Shigeta (former Ambassador to Israel) to the area as the Special Envoy of Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. Shigeta now joins US Special Envoy Anthony Zinni, UN Special Envoy Terje Larson and EU Special Envoy Miguel Moratinos in the effort to restore calm and hope for peace in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Japan and the EU have paid for 70% of all projects undertaken in the Occupied Palestinian Territories between 1993 to the present. As such, they have the right and a common interest to investigate, publicize and criticize any unnecessary destruction to any of the projects that their tax payer money has gone to fund. As a matter of fact, according to Chris Patten the EU has already "chosen to make an issue of the destruction of their projects destroyed by Israeli military incursions". Patten emphasized that, "this is not merely an accounting exercise. The EU is pursuing this matter because the wonton destruction of Palestinian infrastructure and other facilities is so utterly counter productive. It destabilizes the structure of authority. It breeds resentment and desperation" (Speech to the Plenary Session of the European Parliament, February 5, 2002).
As a joint effort with the European Union, Japan should also make an issue of its projects that have been destroyed unnecessarily by the Israeli military. The objective being that it will keep Israel accountable for its actions and as Chris Patten put it, "the hope is that this will urge Israel to stop destroying the fabric of the Palestinian community, to stop destroying any hope of a better life for Palestinians" (Speech, February 5, 2002).
The table below provides a probable assessment of the value of damage and destruction caused to Japanese funded projects in the West Bank and Gaza by Israel's military incursions in since September 28, 2000. According to this estimation, a significant amount of these have been either damaged or destroyed with the most destruction falling on projects related to education, health, institution building, humanitarian aid and water and sanitation facilities.
Table 1: Estimated Value of Damage and Destruction to Japanese Funded Projects in the West Bank and Gaza
Source: Calculations based on statistics from the Palestinian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and Japanese MOFA
||Total Disbursed ($1000 US)
|Tourism and Cultural Resources||7,885|
|Water and Sanitation||35,864|
Given the fact that the European Union is going ahead with an assessment of the number and the cost of damaged and destroyed projects funded by the EU in the West Bank and Gaza, this is an opportune time for Japan to join in on the exercise. These projects not only represent Japanese taxpayer money, but they are also symbols of a positive future for Palestinians, for Israel and for the international community. As such, the protection of these projects is fundamental to the success of any peace initiative. It is hoped that Japan and the EU will take this opportunity to join hands in this common challenge to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.