Thursday, 18 November 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
1. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the decision by the European Union to grant €100 million in funding to Cyprus for the construction of the Euro-Asia interconnector given that this project will make Europe complicit in the Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian territories; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56492/21]
What is the Minister's view on the decision by the EU to grant €100 million in funding for a project, the Euro-Asia interconnector project, which will essentially make Europe complicit in the Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian territories? What is the rationale for it and why we are being complicit in the annexation of Palestinian territories?
As part of its climate and transition agenda, the EU is engaged in improving resilience and energy security across the EU, including in Ireland, through investment in interconnection.
Cyprus currently has no interconnection for energy and, as such, it is entirely reliant on precarious domestic supply. Interconnection is, therefore, vital to energy security in Cyprus.
There are two European interconnection projects currently involving Cyprus. One is the Euro-Asia interconnector, which will run from Israel through Cyprus to Greece, and the other is the Euro-Africa interconnector, running from Egypt through Cyprus to Greece. Both are currently in the surveying stage. The Euro-Asia interconnector is regarded as a project of common interest to the EU, which has received grants under the Connecting Europe facility.
This project will end the energy isolation of Cyprus and connect it to the European continental electricity network. It will also contribute to the integration of renewable electricity.
The involvement of Israel in this electricity interconnection project does not have any direct implications for the occupied Palestinian territory since Israel does not use any resources from the occupied Palestinian territory for electricity generation.
The Deputy will be aware of Ireland and the EU’s position on the Middle East peace process; we are committed to a negotiated two-state solution. In line with UN Security Council Resolution 2334, Ireland and the EU distinguish, in other relevant dealings, between the territory of the state of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.
The EU commitment to this project serves the purpose of essentially entrenching the EU in the complicity of Israel's campaign of annexation of Palestinian territories. The Minister will be aware that the Palestinian Authority recently deposited its exclusive economic zone, EEZ, with the UN, overlapping with major gas fields Israel is currently exploiting.
He will also be well aware that the Dáil has previously set out its position on the matter of Israel's illegal annexation policy. It is illegal.
Israel has also started exploration in disputed waters off Lebanon as well. What the Minister said is factually incorrect. They are actively plundering Palestinian resources. The EU is complicit, as is Ireland, which goes against our stated position in respect of the illegal actions of Israel.
I do not accept that. What we are doing here is trying to ensure that a member state, that is, Cyprus, is not isolated in terms of electricity interconnection. This project has been assessed by the Commission. The Commission, as Ireland does, makes a distinction in policy between the EU and Israel between occupied Palestinian territory and Israel proper.
This is about an interconnection project that connects an EU member state from an energy security perspective. That makes sense, from an EU collective perspective, because it links in Greece as well. That is the rationale and thinking behind it.
Just as the EU is partly funding our own interconnection with France, this is also a project about providing energy security to a country, Cyprus, that currently does not have it.
It is all well and good to ensure that a member state has energy supply and is not isolated but this project has sufficiently been compromised to force the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, UNICEF, to distance itself from it.
The Minister did not touch on the fact that the Palestinian Authority has recently deposited its EEZ with the UN and he might touch on that in this response. The Palestinians clearly stated that this is within their EEZ. It is one matter coming in here, standing up and making declarations that Israel has breached international law but our actions, on the other hand, more importantly, show that we are complicit in the plunder, not only of Palestinian land but also their natural resources.
We need to take a stand. What the Minister stated here is meaningless and I ask him again to touch on the specific areas that I made reference to.
I make statements all the time on Israel's responsibility in occupied Palestinian territory. I have been fairly consistent on that, both at home and internationally.
This project has been assessed by the European Commission. It is about interconnection of an EU member state with Greece, and Israel.
I am aware that the Palestinian Authority has laid legal claim to natural resources off the coast of Gaza. That is true and that is something that will need to be resolved over time. However, this is an issue around interconnection and energy security. This is primarily about the energy security of an EU member state, Cyprus.
The Deputy is trying to turn it into an Israeli issue and I respect his right to do that. This is a project that has been approved by the European Commission and Ireland should not oppose it.