The European Union said late Monday that it’s urgently reviewing the bloc’s assistance to the Palestinians after several member states protested an earlier announcement that aid would be suspended.
(Bloomberg) — The European Union said late Monday that it’s urgently reviewing the bloc’s assistance to the Palestinians after several member states protested an earlier announcement that aid would be suspended.
EU foreign ministers are due to discuss the implications of the deadly attack by the militant group Hamas, including for the bloc’s aid to the Palestinians, at an emergency gathering Tuesday afternoon.
The bloc’s enlargement commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, preempted the planned debate, posting on social media platform X earlier Monday that the EU was suspending all payments in its €691 million ($730 million) development aid program. A second EU commissioner, Janez Lenarcic, said separately that humanitarian aid would continue “as long as needed.”
Hours later, the commission formally announced the aid review and reversed the suspension, adding that “there were no payments foreseen.” And the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said the review “will not suspend the due payments.”
The shift came after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reached out to European Council President Charles Michel to express concern about any suspension of aid, according to an EU official. Michel made clear that such a decision can’t be made without the backing of member states, the official added, noting that EU aid is aimed at supporting Palestinians who reject Hamas.
The series of statements also riled some member states, who slammed the EU for not first consulting with member states.
Yolanda Diaz, Spain’s second deputy prime minister, called Varhelyi’s announced suspension of aid “a true betrayal by Europe of its own founding principles.”
The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it had informed the European Commission it didn’t favor suspending aid that directly benefits the Palestinian people. France provided €95 million of support to the Palestinians in 2022, focused on water, health, food security and education, including via the UN, it said.
The EU has been strong in its condemnation of the deadly assaults on Israel by Hamas, but the sparring over the status of aid reflects the ongoing sensitivity over Europe’s approach to the Palestinians.
Read more: Israel Attacks Risk New Front With Iran in Proxy Shadow War
Spanish officials said they asked Borell to put the question of Palestinian aid on the agenda for Tuesday’s ministers’ meeting.
A spokesman for the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said Ireland remains committed to delivering humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians and “their needs should continue to be a central part of the overall response to this crisis by the international community.”
In a statement clarifying Varhelyi’s remarks, the commission said the purpose of the review of EU assistance for Palestinians is to ensure that “no EU funding indirectly enables any terrorist organization to carry out attacks against Israel.”
The commission said it would also review whether its support programs to the Palestinian population and to the Palestinian Authority need to be adjusted.
–With assistance from Alberto Nardelli and Ania Nussbaum.
(Updates with French statement in eighth paragraph)
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