The European Commission announced this Monday the immediate review of all EU development aid to Palestine, almost 700 million euros. An additional audit to ensure how these funds are being used, in case a portion may have been used, directly or indirectly, to finance the activities of Hamas or any group that may provide support to it. This measure (which according to Ursula von der Leyen’s team does not imply the suspension of any disbursement, as there are none planned in the short term), as well as the general position of the Union after the murder of more than 800 Israelis, will be addressed by the foreign ministers of the 27, who will meet urgently this Tuesday by videoconference after being summoned by the high representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell.
What happened this Monday reflects a practically unprecedented situation, in which community leaders or commissioners flying the solo are rewriting or trying to rewrite on the fly Europe’s worldview on the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as well as altering the economic ties between the institutions. and the programs that in theory finance schools, hospitals, the payment of civil servants, pensions and all types of expenses in Gaza and the West Bank, after the massive and bloody attack over the weekend.
The Hungarian commissioner started the controversy Oliver Varhelyi, one of the most controversial politicians and without a doubt the most pro-Israeli commissioner and critical of the Palestinian authorities. He did it with a message, that of suspending development funds immediately, that managed to penetrate opinion and with which he wanted to force the helm of the entire Commission in one of the most critical moments. After hours of criticism, protests from half a dozen national governments, indignation on the part of NGOs and a great debate in public opinion, the European Commission looked for a formula to reverse, minimize the announcement, emphasize that there will be no freezing of funds and not a euro of humanitarian aid will be touched, but there will be a thorough examination of each item, to ensure that no spurious use is made or that it could contribute to the coffers of terrorist groups.
“The scale of terror and brutality against Israel and its people is a turning point. Things cannot continue as if nothing has happened. As the largest donor to the Palestinians, the European Commission is reviewing its entire development portfolio, for a total value of 691 million euros. All payments are suspended immediately. All projects put under review. All new budget proposals are paralyzed, including those for 2023, postponed until further notice. There will be a comprehensive evaluation of the entire package,” the head of Neighborhood and Enlargement, who is Viktor Orban’s man in the institutions, announced in a thread on X, formerly Twitter. His announcement came after Germany and Austria reported the interruption of bilateral aid to Palestine, which amounts to almost 150 million euros.
The problem is that hours later, and from the same platform, his colleague reacted and contradicted him, or qualified him. Janec Lenarcic, responsible for Crisis Management and Humanitarian Aid. “I strongly condemn the terrorist attack by Hamas but it is imperative to protect civilians and respect international law. EU humanitarian aid to the most needy Palestinians will continue as long as it is necessary,” said the Slovenian.