France Expected to Back Israel's Entry Into EU Program That Bars Settlement Funding

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech in Paris, last month.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech in Paris, last month.Credit: REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

France is expected to support Israel's request to join a European Union cultural program that provides hundreds of millions of euros in funding, with the two countries' culture ministers meeting at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday.

During their meeting, Israel's culture minister, Chili Tropper, asked his French counterpart, Roselyne Bachelot, to support Israel's acceptance into the program, which is set to come up for approval by the EU in the coming days.

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The EU's Creative Europe program grants hundreds of millions of euros in support to cultural and arts projects. Israel's request to join comes despite the fact that the EU grants to Israeli projects would be conditioned on their not going to Israeli projects beyond Israel's pre-1967 borders. 

Tropper and Bachelot discussed both their countries' cooperation on cultural issues, and continuing and expanding joint film productions. They also aim to put cultural matters at the top of both countries' diplomatic agendas.

Israel's Culture Minister Chili Tropper, last month. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

"I was happy to meet an important partner of Israel in promoting Israeli culture and creation," Tropper said. "I've asked the minister to support the Creative Europe agreements, which would significantly help expand the cooperation between both countries."

Creative Europe has a seven-year budget of 1.46 billion euros ($1.73 billion), providing grants to 250,000 artists and projects, including hundreds of films and thousands of book translations.

Foreign Minister Lapid, left, and Prime Minister Bennett at the Knesset in June. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In 2013, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who then served as finance minister, came up with compromise wording that enabled Israel to participate in a similar European Union program that also prohibited grant funding to be spent beyond Israel's 1967 borders.

Bennett reached an agreement on Israel's participation in the other program, Horizon 2020, providing sizeable scientific funding in fields of technology.

At the time, Bennett proposed that an addendum be added to the agreement with the EU stating that Israel opposes the EU's exclusion of West Bank Jewish settlements from the program. The formula that was reached paved the way for Israeli participation in the program.

When it comes to Israeli participation in Creative Europe, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Tropper have agreed that Israeli participation would be based on the same formula. Lapid is expected to advance the process at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday in Brussels. The meeting will be the first of its kind in more than a decade attended by an Israel foreign minister, and Israel has high hopes for the meeting.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell invited Lapid to attend the Brussels meeting as a high-profile guest of the gathering, which is to be attended by 26 European foreign ministers. Lapid is to speak in the gathering and to engage in discussion with his counterparts. 

"For the Israeli arts world, it involves a dramatic step," said one official with knowledge of the project. "Israel will invest a lot of money in the project, but all the money – and more – will be returned as an investment in cultural initiatives. Beyond the economic benefit, this involves membership in a significant cultural club and an admission ticket to cooperation with Europe."

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