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EU reviews aid for Palestinians, reversing earlier freeze

EU reviews aid for Palestinians, reversing earlier freeze
Palestinians inspect the destroyed surrounding of the Palestine Tower after Israeli warplanes targeted it in Gaza City, 7 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER)

The European Union said late on Monday that it’s urgently reviewing the bloc’s assistance to the Palestinians after several member states protested an earlier announcement that aid would be suspended.

EU foreign ministers are due to discuss the implications of the deadly attack by the militant group Hamas, including for the bloc’s aid to the Palestinians, at an emergency gathering on Tuesday afternoon.  

The bloc’s enlargement commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, preempted the planned debate, posting on social media platform X earlier on Monday that the EU was suspending all payments in its €691-million development aid programme. A second EU commissioner, Janez Lenarcic, said separately that humanitarian aid would continue “as long as needed”.

Hours later, the commission formally announced the aid review and reversed the suspension, adding that “there were no payments foreseen”.

The shift came after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reached out to European Council President Charles Michel to express concern about any suspension of aid, according to an EU official. Michel made clear that such a decision can’t be made without the backing of member states, the official added, noting that EU aid is aimed at supporting Palestinians who reject Hamas.

The series of statements also riled some member states, who slammed the EU for not first consulting with member states. 

Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s second deputy prime minister, called Varhelyi’s announced suspension of aid “a true betrayal by Europe of its own founding principles”.   

The EU has been strong in its condemnation of the deadly assaults on Israel by Hamas, but the sparring over the status of aid reflects the ongoing sensitivity over Europe’s approach to the Palestinians.

Read more: Israel Attacks Risk New Front With Iran in Proxy Shadow War

Spanish officials said they asked EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell to put the question of Palestinian aid on the agenda for Tuesday’s ministers’ meeting. 

A spokesman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said Ireland remains committed to delivering humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians and “their needs should continue to be a central part of the overall response to this crisis by the international community”.

In a statement clarifying Varhelyi’s remarks, the commission said the purpose of the review of EU assistance for Palestinians is to ensure that “no EU funding indirectly enables any terrorist organisation to carry out attacks against Israel.”

The commission said it would also review whether its support programmes to the Palestinian population and to the Palestinian Authority need to be adjusted.

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  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Much ado about nothing. The EU has always supported the Palestinian community, provided the funds are deployed for civilian support. The suspension was implemented to ensure no financial contributions went to Hamas. When the EU realised no immediate payments were due, the suspensions reversed, as they now had time to re-check that all controls were in fact in place to prevent funds being diverted to Hamas. What’s wrong with that?

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