Senior EU official vows to 'look deep' into EU funding Palestinian terror
"If there is any concern, we will act immediately," Olivér Várhelyi pledged.
By DONNA RACHEL EDMUNDS
A senior European Union official has ordered an investigation into whether the body’s funds are being used to finance Palestinian terror, pledging to rectify the situation if that is the case.EU enlargement commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said on Tuesday he had instructed the heads of delegations in Tel Aviv, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to “look deep” into the situation, adding “if there is any concern, we will act immediately.”His comments at the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs come just weeks after concerns were raised by members of the European Parliament and others regarding a letter sent on March 30 by Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff of the EU Representative Office to the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinian NGO Network – an umbrella organization of 135 NGOs.In the letter, headed “clarification letter regarding the EU-funded contracts,” Burgsdorff explained that affiliation with or support for groups on the EU restricted lists does not disqualify a person from receiving EU funding.“It is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with or supporting any of the groups or entities mentioned in the EU restrictive lists is not excluded from benefiting from EU-funded activities, unless his/her exact name and surname (confirming his/her identity) corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists,” Burgsdorff wrote, adding: “As far as Palestine is concerned, there are no Palestinian natural persons on the restrictive measures list, pursuant to Council Regulation 2580/2001.”Furthermore, he emphasized that “the EU does not ask any civil society organization to change its political position toward any Palestinian faction or to discriminate against any natural person based on his/her political affiliation.”Commenting on the letter in a statement on its website, NGO Monitor said: “The implication is that, even if a Palestinian NGO applying for EU grants is an affiliate of EU-designated terrorist groups (as a number are) or employs individuals from these groups, the EU will still provide the organization with funds and legitimacy.”It was this concern that Várhelyi addressed in Tuesday’s meeting.“On how to ensure that our financial support doesn’t go to terrorists, or terrorist organizations, or organizations that are supporting terrorists, or organizations who are supporting terrorist organizations, we have received a number of requests from the Israeli authorities in that regard also from the public in Israel,” Várhelyi told those present.“I took immediate action, I asked both the heads of delegations in Tel Aviv but also in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they will have to look deep, and if there is any concern, any concern, we will act immediately.“There is no terror financing from EU funds, as long as there are EU funds that will not be happening, this will not be tolerated, and if it happens, it will be rectified. And I will see it to it myself that it is done and delivered.”NGO Monitor vice president Olga Deutsch told The Jerusalem Post that Várhelyi’s comments were welcome.“This is an important step, definitely a precedent. Until now the EU would automatically dismiss any charges that their funds are used inappropriately,” she said. “Now, for the first time the EU is willing to investigate.”However, she emphasized that an investigation was merely the first step in ensuring that any EU funding of terrorist entities or their associates is rooted out.“This is not enough and there are many questions,” Deutsch said. “Who will run the investigation, based on what information and so on? The commission needs to check each Palestinian NGO it has funded in the last three years and, if terror links are proven, should demand a refund.“We know that at least €6 million were given to PFLP-connected NGOs in the last three years. Some of the employees of these NGOs currently stand trial for the murder of Rina Shnerb z”l. But also, the commission still hasn’t issued an official statement, nor has it distanced itself from the letter that was sent by its diplomat Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff.”In April the EU handed €71m. to the Palestinian Authority to help fund its response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the PA opted to honor the monthly salaries of jailed terrorists and the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks ahead of welfare payments and the salaries of public workers. Monthly budget statements prepared by the PA were also found to have hidden the payments, amounting to in excess of NIS 500m. a year, from the international community.f