We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

The Tánaiste is expected to reaffirm the immediate need for a ceasefire in Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo

Ireland facing 'pushback' against efforts to review EU trade deal with Israel - Tánaiste

Micheál Martin was speaking this morning ahead of a trip to the Middle East during which he will visit humanitarian agencies working at the Rafah border crossing.


TÁNAISTE MICHEÁL MARTIN has said efforts to take a more robust approach in the EU’s handling of Israel is suffering “significant pushback and resistance” from some member states. 

Speaking in Luxembourg this morning ahead of a meeting of the council of foreign affairs ministers – Martin said that Ireland and Spain’s efforts to review the diplomatic and trade relationships with Israel had hit some tensions from some countries. 

He said that Irish officials had anticipated that there would be resistance and he will discuss it during the meeting today.

The Journal / YouTube

Trade relations between the EU and Israel are governed by a Free Trade Area that is part of 2000′s EU-Israel Association Agreement. Ireland along with Spain has sought a complete review of that agreement.  

Martin said key to that review would be to look at clauses in the agreement which compel Israel to fulfil humanitarian obligations. 

“Essentially, we’re calling for a review by the Commission of the association agreement, and particularly the degree to which Israel is fulfilling the mandatory human rights clauses of that agreement because what has transpired in Gaza is absolutely unacceptable.

“From a humanitarian point of view we’re of the view in Ireland that humanitarian law has been breached and broken time and time again and that the level of civilians dying, and women and children, is quite shocking.

“It’s beyond comprehension that the bombardment of Gaza continues, given the depths of despair, and destruction that is going on,” he said.

Martin also said that sanctions against Iran should be tightened because of their support for the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah which is causing a destabilisation in the region. 

The meeting today will discuss ongoing conflicts in Ukraine, the Middle East and Sudan today in Luxembourg during a meeting of foreign ministers from EU member states.

Martin will travel to Egypt, Jordan and visit the Rafah border crossing to the south of Gaza in the coming days in a diplomatic push.  

He will meet with humanitarians at Rafah and discuss the ongoing diplomatic efforts with the Egyptian and Jordanian Governments. 

“We cannot and must not lose focus on the situation in Gaza, which remains extremely grave.

“I will use my visit to the Rafah crossing to highlight the impact of ongoing Israeli restrictions on humanitarian access, which prevents life-saving aid from reaching the people of Gaza.

“Up to 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah and the humanitarian consequences of any Israeli military operation in the area would be disastrous,” he added.

The council of foreign affairs ministers will also be virtually joined by the Ukrainian ministries for defence and foreign affairs as they consider what measures are needed so that the EU can step up its efforts in assisting the war-torn country.

The ministers are meeting just two days after the US house of representatives approved a long-awaited, and much-needed, $60 billion (€56 billion) military aid package over the weekend.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been intensifying in recent weeks as Russia has increased its bombardment and attacks on civilian infrastructure and claimed yesterday that it had gained territory in the east of the country.

Ahead of the meeting, Martin denounced the continued Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, particularly on energy facilities, as “deplorable”. The ministers will discuss measures towards supporting Ukraine to better defend its airspace.

Elsewhere, the Tánaiste is expected to reaffirm Ireland’s position on the conflict in Gaza, and the immediate need for a ceasefire in the region, as Israel continues its counter-attack against Hamas since the 7 October attacks.

He will also call for EU member states to support any new UN resolutions which recognises the state of Palestine, after a vote on recognising the state failed to pass through the UN Security Council last week.

It will also be the first time that the ministers have met since the escalation of conflict in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and Iran. Martin is expected to outline the need for all parties to show “maximum restraint”, to avoid further outbreaks of conflict.

Ministers are also to consider measures the EU can take to establish a ceasefire in Sudan after the civil war in the country is well into its second year. There is particular concern among the council of the EU over possible humanitarian crises in the country as a result of the war.

The Tánaiste is due to depart Luxembourg later today for Cairo, to meet with his Egyptian counterpart for a discussion on the conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Gaza.

The Journal’s news correspondent Niall O’Connor is reporting from Luxembourg and will be travelling to Rafah with the Tánaiste.  

- With reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.