European Commission has approved a €252.5 million assistance package supporting the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian refugees.It is the first part of the EU’s 2016 annual support package in favour of Palestine.
The Commission announced yesterday (1.3) how much financial support will be provided to the Palestinian Authority and the refugees during 2016.
Within the first package, €170.5 million will be channelled directly to the Palestinian Authority, through the PEGASE mechanism (Mécanisme Palestino-Européen de Gestion de l’Aide Socio-Economique). Through these funds the EU supports the Palestinian Authority in delivering health and education services, protecting the poorest families and providing financial assistance to the hospitals in East Jerusalem.
The funding via PEGASE is direct financial support to pay salaries and social allowances. According to the Commission, the money is disbursed to approved beneficiaries according to lists that are checked by both the Palestinian ministry of finance and the EU aid office in Jerusalem
The remaining €82 million will be a contribution to the Programme Budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides essential services for Palestinian refugees across the region. This support aims at offering improved access to essential public services and increased livelihood opportunities to the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees.
The Commission also stated that a second package of measures will be announced later in the year.
High Representative/ Vice-President Federica Mogherini, said among others: “The European Union renews its concrete commitment to the Palestinians. But these steps are not enough; Palestinian institutions must continue to grow stronger, become more transparent, more accountable and more democratic.”
She continued: “Viable and inclusive institutions, based on respect for the rule of law and human rights, are crucial in view of the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State. Because what we want to achieve is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State living side by side, in peace and security, with the State of Israel and other neighbours.”
In 2013 the European Court of Auditors published an audit report on the EU funding to the Palestinian Authority. The report resulted in improvements in the financial management of the assistance and linked it to a two-year action plan and output indicators.
But according to sources in the Commission two main issues were not addressed. The auditors found 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. They also noted that the EU has not applied adequate conditionality for the financial assistance.
The idea of conditionality was rejected because it cannot be implemented in practice without risking the stability of the Palestinian Authority.
In the current situation in the region the Palestinian Authority has been accused of inciting to violence and hate in media and schools which are partly funded by the EU. The EU has been criticized for not using its leverage on the Palestinian authority to calm down the situation and bring about confidence-building measures to restart the peace process.
Commission sources told The Brussels times that only the European External Action Service (EEAS) – EU´s diplomatic service – can raise these issues in its on-going dialogue with the Palestinian Authority. The EEAS declined to respond to questions from The Brussels Times on its policy with regard to the financial assistance.