Thursday

26th Apr 2018

Opinion

Peace through gas in Israel and Palestine

  • Gaza schoolchildren: power cuts affect basic state services (Photo: EUobserver)

Last month’s special report by the European Court of Auditors on EU financial support to the Palestinian Authority has been described by some commentators as a political minefield.

The audit was, in fact, largely positive.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The court verified that a satisfactory control system has been put in place to ensure that the EU assistance, the bulk of which is given as direct budget support, is paid to eligible civil servants on the PA’s payroll.

It also criticized Israel, and rightly so, for not doing enough to help ensure that the assistance is effective.

But it made the important observation that the EU is co-funding the salaries of a considerable number of civil servants in Gaza who are not turning up to work because of the political situation. The exact figure is not clear to anyone.

In any normal context this would be considered a waste of money.

The auditors recommended that the parties should reach an agreement for this funding to be discontinued and redirected to the West Bank.

They noted that the EU has not applied adequate conditionality or used performance indicators.

After all, the main objective of the assistance is to finance public services for the benefit of the Palestinian people, but if the Gaza offcials are not doing their jobs, then no services are being provided.

Paying for absent civil servants because the PA has demanded it or because of fear that they might otherwise turn to terrorism is close to giving in to blackmail.

The auditors also say that the informal nature of the communication channels between Gaza civil servants and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah makes the payroll system prone to corruption by actors at all levels.

But the current set-up is the very opposite of accountability and encourages corrupt practices.

The level of corruption in the Palestinian territories is already high. It might be explained by factors such as the occupation, but it is also linked to aid-dependency, with large amounts of foreign money flowing in under few, if any, conditions.

In its reply to the report, the European Commission said the assistance is needed for Palestinian state-building in view of a future two-state solution.

But if the fight against corruption is a priority in state building, foreign aid should not be conducive to corruption.

For the two-state solution to come into being, Palestinian civil servants must do their job and both the PA and Israel must negotiate a peace settlement in good faith.

The audit report also highlighted another issue which must not be overlooked, however.

It noted that the EU paid €107 million in direct assistance for the purchase of fuel for Gaza’s sole power plant.

This component of the EU support was suspended at the end of 2010 because of a dispute on VAT and it was later replaced by a development project in the electricity sector.

The power plant, which normally provides about 30 percent of the electricity in the Gaza strip - if it has fuel - has never worked to its full capacity.

Part of it was destroyed by Israel in 2006 and was never fully repaired.

According to the auditors, the plant was originally designed for natural gas, but instead uses diesel. This is probably more expensive and certainly emits more carbon dioxide.

When the delivery of industrial diesel from Israel stopped, regular diesel, which causes even more pollution, was smuggled from Egypt via Gaza tunnels. But the new military regime in Egypt has clamped down on smuggling.

The delivery of diesel from Israel was recently resumed with funding from Qatar. This solves the problem temporarily and reduces the number of power cuts in Gaza, but it does not address the permanent deficit in electricity.

The situation becomes acute during cold winters.

The power cuts affect the daily lives of the inhabitants and harm prospects for economic growth. They also affect the running of hospitals and waste water treatment.

The Court of Auditors says nothing on how to solve the problem.

But environmental pollution knows no borders.

Meanwhile, Israel has in recent years discovered huge natural gas reserves in its territorial waters and has begun to replace coal with gas in its own power plants. A sustainable solution of the energy problem in the Palestinian territories should also be based on gas and renewable energy, as in Israel.

The first sign of “natural gas acting as a bridge for peace” was the signing of a sales agreement earlier this month between the drilling partners on Israel’s “Leviathan” gas field and the Palestine Power Generation Company.

The Palestinian company will buy gas for a period of 20 years to fuel a future power plant in Jenin with a 200-megawatt capacity.

The potential solutions to Gaza and Israel’s problems exist. But the EU should be more creative in helping them to come into life.

The writer is a former EU commission official dealing with enlargement

How Russian propaganda depicts Europe - should we worry?

Russian domestic television - the only source of foreign news for most Russians - consistently shows Europe over-run by immigrants, beset by terrorist atrocities, and on strike. This has serious consequences.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, Italian admiral says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan