Hamas-led PA risks bulk of EU aid

EU foreign ministers to debate implications of Hamas gov't on Monday.

hamas flags 88 (photo credit: )
hamas flags 88
(photo credit: )
Up to 80 percent of the EU's 500 million (US $609 million) euros in annual aid for Palestinians could be jeopardized by the emergence of an Islamic government led by Hamas. EU foreign ministers will debate the implications of a Hamas government Monday - two days after Hamas said it had formed a government - and the 25 EU leaders will take up the issue at a Brussels summit later in the week. Since Hamas' landslide win in parliamentary elections in January, the EU has made the fate of its largest foreign aid program hinge on Hamas' willingness to disarm, renounce violence, and recognize Israel and all accords it has made with previous Palestinian leaders. It has also considered giving EU aid by circumventing the Hamas organization, but found that unrealistic. On Sunday, a European diplomat said the EU will work with Hamas, but added, "Those putting together the new government must know that how they decide their government program will have repercussions." "We'll look at what (Hamas) adopts as its program, what it says about key issues" such as recognizing Israel and Middle East peace, said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the EU-Palestinian relations. About half of the EU's €500 million annual aid package comes directly from the European Commission and funds hospitals, utilities, education and projects run by the UN, the Red Cross and other non government organizations. Additionally, the EU and its 25 governments run good governance projects - that focus on such things such as building a credible government administration and support for the private sector. To date, more than 1 billion (US $1.21 billion) euros have gone into these projects. The Palestinian Authority's financial woes have worsened since Hamas won legislative elections in January. Israel already has cut off about $50 million (42 million euros) in tax money it collects for the Palestinians each month. EU officials say the Palestinians depend disproportionately on foreign aid because their borders are closed. A mid-November Israel-Palestinian agreement to reopen the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and, eventually, the Gaza sea and airports, has collapsed.