The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and Roskilde University participate in scientific collaborations involving Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. DTU has now dropped their project with a settlement. The Danish Foreign Minister welcomes the decision.
DTU has ended collaboration with Ariel University, located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel (Photo: Alectia)
It is not just Danish companies, but also Danish universities that have connections to illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.
The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is working together with Ariel University, located in the settlement by the same name. According to DTU, the collaboration dates back to the 1990s.
After DanWatch presented the information to the leadership of DTU, president of DTU Anders Bjarklev chose to stop the collaboration immediately: "We have ended the cooperation immediately after we were made aware of it," he says: The money that was devoted to analyses in the laboratories of Ariel University has been suspended and will be paid back to the fund that supplied the finances."
According to DTU's president, it is problematic for DTU to be associated with illegal settlements.
"If you fund analyses in laboratories at Ariel University, it can be seen as supporting a settlement, something we will not," says Anders Bjarklev.
Minister for Foreign Affairs happy with DTU's decision
Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal is satisfied with this decision: "We do not want Danish scientific institutions participating in activities that may help to maintain the illegal settlements. If there has been any doubt about our position on this matter, the case of DTU is a good opportunity to reiterate. And I am satisfied with DTU's decision, "said Søvndal.
Roskilde University: EU has endorsed cooperation with settlement
Roskilde University is part of a research project in which Dead Sea Laboratories, which is behind the Ahava cosmetics products, participate. Dead Sea Laboratories is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem and use natural resources from Palestinian territory.
According Roskilde University President, Ib Poulsen, one does not need assess the ethics if the research project is approved by the EU:"According to regulation of EU research projects by EU, including the EU's approval of the projects, it is sufficient guarantee of the project's legality for Danish participation, and thus a sufficiently non-controversial basis for a Danish university or another Danish public institution involved," he says.
Universities' social responsibility
According to Mads Øvlisen, Chairman of the new Danish Mediation and Complaint Institution for Responsible Business Conduct, universities do have social responsibilities like companies:"I strongly believe that universities have a duty to look at who their partners are, and have certain demands for partners," he says, but points out that it can be difficult to make an ethical checklist that can cover everything: "It is a difficult balancing act, as it must be allowed, in scientific situations, to explore taboo or controversial areas."
Ethical guidelines for universities on the way?
At DTU ethical guidelines for research are in the making, giving the university better possibilities to avoid working with problematic partners in the future: "You can not make a definitive ethical checklist for research collaborations, but you can at least create an awareness list so when the different departments begin collaborations, they know that you need to have special attention on certain conditions that a scientific researcher might not immediately see," says president at DTU, Anders Bjerklev.
At Roskilde University, the development of ethical guidelines have been launched, but guidelines for research partners and cooperates were recently abandoned by the scientific panel. "As far as guidelines for whom the university will and can work with, this is so much of a grey area, it is FOU's (the Scientific Panel) opinion that you will never be able to maintain principles that can accommodate all political, moral and ethical considerations in relation to regimes or commercial enterprises behavior, " the panel recently wrote to Roskilde University's Academic Council. But this is not the last word on the matter, Mihail Larsen, member of the Academic Council, promises:"It is not ambitious to give up that way. It is possible to make principles of what a researcher should not do, and in this case you should not work with an occupying power, "he says and continues: "At the Academic Council's meeting, it was agreed that the scientific panel's conclusion was not satisfactory and that guidelines need to be made."