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The role of non-state actors in EU policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

30 October 2012
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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been on the European Union’s agenda for decades, becoming one of the most important and controversial issues of EU foreign policy. Member States and EU institutions are certainly the main actors involved in the EU’s policy-making process towards the conflict. However, non-state actors (NSAs), such as business groups, NGOs, think tanks etc., have also become part and parcel of the process. Not only are they involved in the output side of EU external policy-making, as beneficiaries of EU funding or in implementing EU projects, but they are also very active on the input side, thus contributing to the formulation and shaping of EU external policy in this regard.

In light of the lobbying and advocacy activities carried out by NSAs when it comes to EU policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important to investigate who these actors are and what role they play. In order to shed light on these aspects, the paper firstly presents a mapping of the NSAs involved in lobbying and advocacy activities in the context of EU policy. By offering a typology of these actors, it provides a lens through which the role of NSAs may be evaluated, highlighting their main features and core trends in their work. Secondly, the paper investigates the role played by these NSAs in the EU’s external policy-making process by offering examples of EU-NSA engagement. It demonstrates the key role played by NSAs in providing EU officials and policy-makers with information, raising awareness, drawing attention to events happening on the ground or having a bearing on the relationships between the EU and the parties, and offering different frames of analysis for problems and issues of EU interest. Moreover, NSAs can also contribute to fine-tuning existing EU policies towards the conflict, and indeed to changing them.

By exploring these dynamics and the role played by NSAs, this paper aims to improve our understanding of the EU’s foreign policy-making process through the analysis of a group of actors that, although under-researched, play a not insignificant role in the formulation and evolution of EU external policy.