European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR)


Country/TerritoryEuropean Union
Founded2007 by Martti Ahtisaari (Finland), Joschka Fischer (Germany), and Mabel van Oranje (Holland) “with initial funding from George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the Communitas Foundation,” and other private foundations.
In their own words“Inspired by the role American think tanks played in helping the US move from isolationism to global leadership, ECFR’s founders set about creating a pan-European institution that could combine establishment credibility with intellectual insurgency.”



  • Seven branches in Europe with over 50 staff members.
  • ECFR’s Middle East and North Africa program has “sought an invigorated European role in de-escalating crises and driving peace-building solutions in the MENA region during this period of unprecedented turmoil.”
  • In April 2020, ECFR supported the decision by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda to investigate alleged war crimes in the “State of Palestine” and called for EU member states to “defend the ICC’s impartial role” as a “full-scale investigation would provide a rare opportunity to address Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory, as well as the climate of impunity surrounding the current Israeli leadership’s expansion of settlements and annexation of land.”
  • In December 2019, the Jerusalem Postpublished an article exposing that ECFR accepts donations from donors who do business in the occupied territories of Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, while pushing for the EU and European governments to adopt policies that promote silent boycott and divestment of any business activities supposedly related to Israeli “settlements built on occupied territory.” This reflects ECFR’s non-objective standards, which single out Israel while ignoring comparable conflict situations.
  • In a May 2018 article, Hugh Lovatt placed sole blame on Israel for the continuation of the conflict, stating that “the disproportionate use of violence by Israel translates into greater Palestinian support for a return to armed resistance, or at least nurtures more nihilistic violence against Israelis.”
  • On June 2, 2017, ECFR published a report, “Israel’s unlawfully prolonged occupation: consequences under an integrated legal framework,” authored by Valentina Azarova, a consultant with a history of anti-Israel activism, arguing that “third parties have an obligation to put an end to an occupier’s violations through collective and unilateral measures,” and called for the UN Security Council to “act in accordance with its authority under the UN Charter to determine that such acts are ‘crimes against peace’ which therefore constitute an international threat to peace and security” (emphasis added).
  • On November 27, 2017, Lovatt and Azarova presented their reports at a European Parliament event, “Fifty Years of Occupation and Counting: Is it time for a new EU Policy on the Middle East Peace Process?” The conference featured politicians, academics, and NGO officials advocating Israel’s isolation, and calling on the EU and other countries to increase international pressure and to impose sanctions on Israel.

BDS Activities

  • In February 2020, ECFR lobbied in support of the discriminatory UN database of businesses operating across the 1949 Armistice line, aimed at bolstering BDS campaigns against Israel. According to ECFR, “The report’s unveiling is itself an accomplishment, as it provides an important basis for promoting corporate accountability around the Israeli occupation.”
  • Two ECFR researchers, Mattia Toaldo and Hugh Lovatt, write extensively on what they call the “differentiation” policy. In “EU Differentiation and Israeli settlements” (July 22, 2015) ECFR calls for sanctions against Israeli entities (and certain individuals) that have activities in or apparent financial contacts with Israeli settlements, claiming that this does not constitute BDS. The report lays the responsibility for failure to reach peace solely on Israel, ignoring Palestinian violence, incitement, and rejectionism. According to Toaldo and Lovatt, the EU should extend this policy to the business and sports sectors. They argue that these forms of “differentiation” reflect EU policy, whereas, in reality, the issue was specifically negotiated between Israeli and European senior officials (after the release of the EU’s “Guidelines” in 2013), and the EU clearly stated that it was not considering ECFR’s approach.
  • In December 2019, ECFR launched a “Differentiation Tracker” that includes a “detailed snapshot of European relations with Israel – and the extent to which these comply with UNSCR 2334 and the EU’s policy of differentiation.”
  • On July 26, 2017, ECFR published a report, “Rethinking Oslo: How Europe can promote peace in Israel-Palestine,” authored by Hugh Lovatt and Omar Dajani, calling for “Deepening and broadening differentiation” as well as for “Imposing targeted sanctions upon persons or entities providing support to or benefitting from Israel’s unlawful practices in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories], including its illegal annexation of Palestinian territory” (emphasis added).
  • In June 2016, Hugh Lovatt, along with Martin Konecny from the European Middle East Project(EuMEP), endorsed sanctions against Israel, calling on FIFA “to exclude settlement clubs from the Israeli Football Association,” as part of a broader campaign against Israel initiated by several pro-BDS groups.” Lovatt stated that a ban would send a “very strong message” to Israel that it “cannot use football teams as a political tool to try to impose acceptance of its occupation.”
  • In May 2015, Toaldo and Lovatt published “How to Revive EU Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” claiming that Israelis should be confronted with a future without European support since, according to the authors, progress in the peace process “depends…on Israel.” The report implies that only through sanctions on Israel can the peace process be resolved and presents the Palestinians as passive actors.
  • In November 2015, Hugh Lovatt called for additional measures to punish and impose “real financial consequences for average Israelis who remain ambivalent about Israel’s settlement project.”
  • In September 2015, Hugh Lovatt participated in a session by the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People titled, “International Meeting on the Question of Palestine: Israeli Settlements as an Obstacle to Peace – Possible Ways Forward.” The session focused on “the role of the international community, including regional organizations” and the “import of goods produced in Israeli settlements and EU guidelines.”

ECFR-MENA Employees

2015-2018 Funding (partial list; amounts in UK pounds)

Donor 2018201720162015
Austrian MFA14,161
Danish MFA132,88951,146108,22398,373
UK Department for International Development (DFID)265,299185,739
Dutch MFA117,53691,72879,57645,558
European Commission29,085
Finnish MFA26,38414,43920,120
Foundation for Open Society53,858
Open Society Foundations121,60151,33121,3942,659,840
German MFA81,73393,25894,32944,444
Norwegian MFA521,618402,212210,738313,183
Portuguese MFA3,3903,623
Belgium MFA50,000
France MFA75,3008,726
Spain MFA27,8196,006
Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)516,473303,680378,697304,866
European Endowment for Democracy (European Union)11,440
Italian MFA118,61921,912
Royal Norwegian Embassy in Beijing28,22430,118
Japanese MFA189,150106,026140,980
Robert Bosch Stiftung56,00979,889134,327156,067
Stiftung Mercator (Germany)710,753719,404169,302
Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy)162,11440,000

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