Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

EU extends aid to Palestinians in bid to prevent 'mini Iran'

EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday (30 January) agreed to continue aid to the Palestinian Authority under strict conditions put to election winner Hamas, fearing a complete cut-off of funding will create room for Iran to step in.

The ministers refrained from quick moves to slash its aid to the Palestinians, amounting to €500m a year, following last week’s shock election victory of the islamist Hamas movement which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • EU ministers set tough conditions on continuing aid to a Hamas government (Photo: Council)

The EU is first awaiting coalition-building efforts, which officials said could last as much as three months, while making it clear that any future funding to the Palestinian administration would be made dependent on Hamas backing down on its radicalism.

A statement read "The [EU] Council expects the newly elected PLC [Palestinian Legislative Council] to support the formation of a government committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution of the conflict with Israel based on existing agreements and the Roadmap as well as to the rule of law, reform and sound fiscal management."

"On this basis the European Union stands ready to continue to support Palestinian economic development and democratic state building," ministers added.

Fear of radicalisation and Iran influence

Diplomats indicated that an immediate stop of EU funding was not an option, as this would mean a break-down of the Palestinian administration, followed by chaos and fresh violence.

This would undermine EU hopes for a broad coalition government, also involving the moderate Fatah faction led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

"We should avoid a situation of chaos, which could lead to an Islamic regime at the heart of the Middle East, or, as someone termed it, a mini-Iran", Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot told reporters, referring to existing ties between Iran and Hamas.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested according to FT Deutschland that a cut-off of EU funding would create a void for Iran and Saudi Arabia to step in.

"I definitely see a danger that [other] financers will be found, that will fill the gap," Mr Steinmeier indicated.

EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner stressed that last year, only €70m of the total of €500 EU aid was targeted as direct administrative support to the Palestinian Authority, while the rest did not touch the hands of Palestinian officials and was spent through, for example, United Nations programmes.

Only half of the allotted €70m was actually handed out, the commissioner added, due to insufficient financial safeguards on the Palestinian side.

But Mr Bot indicated the budgetary support for the Palestinian Auithority is crucial, as it involves Palestinian officials' salaries.

Hamas rejects demands

Ursula Plassnik, the foreign minister of Austria which holds the EU presidency, said there is "no timeframe" for assessing whether Hamas complies with EU demands.

But Mr Bot and officials indicated that an assessment was planned in around three months, which is the period Mr Abbas estimates coalition talks could last.

Meanwhile, Hamas on Monday rejected demands by the middle east diplomatic quartet consisting of the EU, the US, Russia and the UN, that it renounce violence and recognise Israel.

"The quartet should have demanded an end to (Israeli) occupation and aggression ... not demanded that the victim should recognise the occupation and stand handcuffed in the face of the aggression," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said according to Reuters.

Solana does not rule out future Hamas talks

The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said that the EU will not decide what its relationship will be with the Palestinian Authority until a new Palestinian government takes office.

EU wants continental free-trade deal with Africa

Earlier this week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in his state of the union announced a new relationship with Africa. On Friday, his subordinates outlined the vision, promising jobs and growth by leveraging public funds for investments.

News in Brief

  1. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port
  2. EU angry at British tabloids on Brexit
  3. UK to allow EU flights in no-deal Brexit
  4. Greek reporters arrested after story on 'mishandled' EU funds
  5. Austrian minister urges police to out foreign sex offenders
  6. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  7. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  8. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  2. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  3. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  4. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  5. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  6. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  7. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  8. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us