EU officials squabble over conditions for Palestinian aid

The commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement says P.A. schools should support peace and coexistence.

The European Parliament. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The European Parliament. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A rare public clash between EU officials took place in recent days after the 27-member body announced unprecedented measures to potentially cut aid to the Palestinian Authority over its incitement to terrorism.

Last Wednesday, the European Parliament declared that the €300 million ($326 million) per year it gives to Ramallah are set to be conditioned on removing “the problematic and hateful material in Palestinian school textbooks and study cards.”

Olivér Várhelyi, the European commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement, tweeted following the decision that “we have a shared interest to ensure an education for the next generation that supports peace & coexistence.”

He added, “The budgetary authority’s request to condition E.U. financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority to full adherence of its textbooks and study cards with UNESCO standards is duly noted. To this end, Commission will reach out to the Palestinian Authority without delay and finance a 2nd study on Palestinian textbooks to support this constructive engagement.”

Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told AFP on Saturday that he would not let this measure translate into action.

“The Palestinian Authority is in a difficult situation and it risks bankruptcy if financing from the EU is blocked. As high representative, I will not allow it,” Borrell said in a meeting in Sweden. “This matter has already been dealt with by the European External Action Service with the Palestinian Authority. We don’t need a new study or anything that would delay the payment of the financial aid that the Palestinian Authority needs. The payment of European aid faced delays two years ago, and it meant that people missed out on necessary help.”

He added, “There is no discussion about looking for excuses about blocking this financial aid. On this point I’m firm.”

The European External Action Service, led by Borrell, is the diplomatic service and combined foreign and defense ministry of the E.U.

Borrell has a history of voicing pro-Palestinan opinions and has often been hostile to Israel. His opposition to the latest funding measures has elicited strong criticism from NGOs. A similar measure to punish the Palestinian Authority government over incitement is being advanced through the U.S. Congress. It also targets the U.N. agency dealing with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, UNRWA.

Marcus Sheff, the CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), told Israel Hayom, “On two sides of the ocean, the biggest donors to the P.A. and UNRWA took measures last week against hatred.

“The E.U. Parliament passed cross-party legislation that condemns the incitement in Palestinian textbooks and demands a halt of funding; in the U.S. Congress, new bipartisan legislation was introduced to ensure that U.S. taxpayer money doesn’t get used by UNRWA to radicalize children in schools. Mr. Borrell should take note of this bill, which draws a line in the sand and says that taxpayer money should not get used in such a cynical way.”

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