European Commission under pressure to give guidance on science collaboration with Israel

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The political rift widens as the research and innovation sector struggles to decide on joint research projects with Israel.

More universities are seeking official guidance from the European Commission as they struggle to assess whether Israeli institutions are still eligible to join Horizon Europe projects, as the Israeli war against Hamas is raising ethical questions across academia.

In a letter to EU research commissioner Iliana Ivanova, the Flemish Interuniversity Council (VLIR) is asking for ‘clear recommendations and/or instructions on how to proceed with Horizon Europe projects that involve partners from Israel’ so they can better assess Israeli partners comply with Horizon Europe ethical standards.

In the meantime, in a scathing letter seen by Science|Business, German MEP Christian Ehler (the European Parliament’s co-rapporteur on Horizon Europe) is asking the Commission to defend Israeli participation in the EU research and innovation programme and says the fight against antisemitism in European universities should be added to the policy agenda of the European Research Area (ERA).

Flemish universities cite article 14 of the Horizon Europe grant agreement which stipulates that research projects ‘must be carried out in line with the highest ethical standards and the applicable EU, international and national law on ethical principles’. Project partners from are expected to ‘commit to and ensure the respect of basic EU values (such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights, including the rights of minorities)’.

Flemish universities say Commission guidance on collaborations with Israel would help them reduce the administrative burden of conducting background checks for potential research partners. ‘All across Europe, universities currently invest a lot of time and energy in screening their academic partnerships with Israeli counterparts,’ the letter says.

Israeli researchers in universities, public research institutions, private companies and governmental organisations work together with EU counterparts on a flurry of research projects under Horizon Europe.

A Commission spokeswoman confirmed Ivanova received both letters and will reply in due course. ‘The EU is not considering suspending or revising the participation of Israeli entities in Horizon Europe, while ensuring strict adherence to international law and ethical standards,’ she said.

Source and complete article: Sience|Buisness®