(photo credit: REUTERS)
EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini has to shed light on how EU aid to Gaza is spent in the coming weeks, in response to a letter from Fulvio Martusciello, chairman of the European Parliament’s pro-Israel caucus.
The Italian member of European Parliament formally requested on Wednesday answers to three questions: How do you intend to check the correct use of the EU fund for the reconstruction of Gaza? Do you think the deployment of observers is the solution to verify the proper allocation of EU aid? How can you make sure that EU taxpayers’ money is not supporting activities other than reconstruction? “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict last summer has left behind a fuse that the implementation of the EU’s foreign policy should try to put out,” Martusciello wrote. “Before spending millions of euros from the contribution of European citizens, we should have the confidence to oversee how it is spent.”
By EU law, Mogherini must answer the MEP’s questions in the next few weeks, which could spark debate in the Brussels corridors of power.
The inquiry comes a week after a European Friends of Israel conference in which German MEP Arne Gericke warned that the €450 million, which the EU pledged to contributed to rebuilding Gaza at a donors’ conference in Cairo last month, could directly contribute to terrorism without proper oversight.
Gericke said EU payment controls were “light years behind where they should be.... As things stand, we cannot be sure that EU funds are not being used for terror tunnels and weapons.”
Last week, the European Court of Auditors found that 2.6 percent of EU’s budget for “external relations, aid and enlargement” was used erroneously, meaning it could not be properly accounted for. If that percentage is applied to the €450m. pledged to Gaza, that means €11.7m. could end up in Hamas’s hands.
NGO Monitor president Prof.
Gerald Steinberg, who spoke at the conference, said that EU policies on Gaza and aid packages are strongly influenced by nongovernmental organizations, which are calling for construction materials to be sent to Gaza.
“These NGOs, such as Amnesty [International] and Gisha [Legal Center for Freedom of Movement], erase the fact that previously, concrete and other materials were siphoned off for terror tunnels and the rocket industry,” he explained.
Steinberg called for humanitarian aid groups linked to the EU and member states, as well as the UN, to establish practices to avoid further exploitation.
“As reflected in the parliamentary questions, the EU has a moral obligation to ensure that not a single euro sent to Gaza, including funds for NGOs, is diverted to assist Hamas and other terror groups,” he added.