Watchdog questions EU funding of NGOs

Claims union gave millions to groups engaged in anti-Israel activity, contradicting EU policy.

EU parliament 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
EU parliament 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The European Union has provided public money to non-governmental organizations engaged in varying amounts of anti-Israel activity, allegedly contradicting EU policy, according to a new report by a Jerusalem-based organization has shown that. The report by NGO Monitor, entitled "Europe's Hidden Hand," reveals that between 2005 and 2007, the EU provided tens of millions of euros of European tax money to NGOs whose activities directly contradict EU policy. The report last week also details a lack of transparency and accountability in EU funding of NGOs. The 50-page report analyzes the process of distributing funds to an array of politically oriented NGOs, including Christian Aid, Adalah, Machsom Watch and the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions. According to NGO Monitor, many of the groups participated in the infamous Durban Conference in 2001 and repeatedly refer to Israel as a "racist and apartheid" state. The NGOs also promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and some also support the "elimination of Israel through a one-state solution" according to the report. NGO Monitor says that this is in "total contradiction" to the EU's commitment to the Quartet's road map, which explicitly calls for the peaceful existence of Israel and Palestine. "Disturbingly, these NGOs openly display EU logos on their materials, providing legitimacy to their extremist politics," the organization said. In the report, NGO Monitor said it contacted a number of EU officials but that they were "often unable or unwilling" to provide the necessary information related to funding policies and decision-making in this area. "Although the EU preaches transparency and accountability, it displays very little of either in funding for NGOs which pursue partisan and political goals," they said. "Despite the tens of millions of Euros provided by taxpayers, no uniform framework or central database exists for obtaining NGO funding information - data is often hidden beneath numerous layers of bureaucracy. "In addition, only vague funding guidelines exist for NGOs, leaving funding decisions at the mercy of the whims and biases of anonymous and unaccountable European Commission officials," the report said. The report calls on the EU to change its policies for NGO funding and establish clear guidelines to preclude the funding of NGOs which "promote conflict." If this change is not actualized, the report says, the implications will be that "Europe will again be responsible for providing NGOs with the ability to demonize and delegitimize Israel." "Europe's Hidden Hand" is the first study to scrutinize EU funding of NGOs systematically. A member of the European Parliament has already utilized the report to press the European Commission to explain their NGO funding policy and process. "For too long, the EU has hidden the funding for highly divisive Palestinian, European and fringe Israeli NGOs that promote conflict under the façade of peace, dialogue, and human rights," NGO Monitor's executive director Prof. Gerald Steinberg said. "This report challenges the EU to practice the transparency and accountability that it preaches to others, and to insure that the funding of NGOs does not undermine EU values and policies."