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19th Jan 2020

Palestinian funds inquiry may damage Commission

A number of Members of Parliament are trying to get enough support in order to launch an inquiry into allegations that EU funds going to the Palestinian Authority are being used to support terrorist activities. Out of the 157 signatures needed to launch this inquiry, 126 have already been collected.

The Commission is opposing this inquiry, leading some MEPs to suppose that the Commission has something to hide. Others believe that launching an inquiry would not be the best way to go, as it risks damaging the Commission, particularly External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten.

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Since September 2002, a group of MEPs, led by the German Ilka Schröder from the Group of the European United Left, are aiming to collect enough signatures to launch this inquiry. They will continue collecting signatures until January 2003. If enough MEPs have signed, there will be a vote on this in the European Parliament.

The crux of the issue is the 10 million euro per month given by the EU to the Palestinian Authority in direct budgetary assistance, which started in June 2001. This money is dispersed like a blank cheque and is not bound to concrete projects, therefore not guaranteeing that there is sufficient control in the way the money is actually spent.

Although Commissioner Patten had said that the International Monetary Fund carried out monthly controls over these payments, the IMF told the EUobserver that it in fact it only verifies if the sums of the PA’s budget are going to the respective departments in the correct amounts, without auditing the accounts. "IMF does not look into how the money is actually spent," it said.

Inquiry might have other motives, say MEPs

Some MEPs are however sceptical about this inquiry, claiming that the people behind it have other political motives - such as support for the Israeli government - rather than shedding truth on the allegations.

The MEP backing the set-up of this inquiry, Ilka Schröder, regrets that an inquiry, which could give answers to these allegations, is being viewed as an anti-Palestinian campaign. "Until now there has not been a complete check of the PA budget. This money might be used for anti-Semitism by the Palestinians, harming at the end the Palestinian people themselves," she told EUobserver.

"I am not doing this as a pro-Israeli. I just want the truth to come out. If he (Chris Patten) tells me there is nothing to hide, why is he so hostile to the inquiry?" British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock said.

The Commission claims that the allegations so far have shown no proof. "The systems we use to control the direct budgetary assistance is one of the most rigorous," a spokesperson from the Commission said. "If there were any proof, we would act immediately."

Commissioner Patten might be \"weakened\"

Although most of the MEPs are aware that there are cases of corruption and support for terrorism by the Palestinian Authority, they are against launching this parliamentary inquiry, claiming it might have bad political consequences, such as weakening Commissioner Chris Patten. "We have to think about the pros and cons and should try to find other possibilities rather than an inquiry," German Conservative MEP Armin Laschett told the EUobserver. "Moreover it would be difficult to prove if the money used for terrorist activities is actually EU money," he said. Budgetary support for the Palestinian Authority also comes from the Arab States and Norway.

MEPs under pressure

The payments sent to the PA are backed by the Council, which the European Parliament can vote against. Despite the support of some MEPs to stop this financial assistance to the PA, this decision has not been taken yet, as it is believed it would be more detrimental to the Palestinian Authority and to its process of reform.

Over the past weeks, MEPs have been receiving emails from organisations, particularly the civil society, to sign for the launch of this inquiry.

MEPs push for EU aid to Palestine inquiry

One quarter of MEPs have called for an official inquiry into allegations that 10 million euro monthly payments from the EU to the Palestinian Authority are being used to fund terrorist activities.

The request will be considered by Parliament President Pat Cox and the political group leaders on Tuesday before being put to the vote by the Parliament as a whole.

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