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EU "comprehensive strategy" hardly comprehensive, lacks strategy

By Brad Nielson

November 7, 2005

On 5 October, 2005, the EC proposed a comprehensive medium term strategy on behalf of the Palestinians. To summarise:

This would imply an increase of 200 to 300 million in assistance from the Community budget....The strategy presented today builds on the immediate 60 million post-disengagement package already being implemented.

The press statement appears to read that the money will be withheld until Israel fulfills certain conditions. Certainly, this one-sided outlook would unfairly take the progress toward a Palestinian state away from Palestinian responsibility and control. It would also contradict the professional and encouraging work of the Quartet's proposals for future Palestinian economic prosperity, as laid out by Mr James Wolfensohn.

A detailed analysis of the complete proposal reveals greater balance. It calls on the government of Israel to allow for greater freedom of movement. At the same time, the proposals are designed to kick-start long needed Palestinian reform, including strengthening the judiciary and other fundamental public institutions.

The list of projects is impressive, deserving further consideration. For example, for the first time, they question the future needs and necessity of UNRWA, at least in the region of Gaza. No doubt, the UK Treasury will be reviewing the document as it prepares its own proposals to further Palestinian prosperity.

The proposals, however, contain several anomalies, which demand clarification by MEPS.

First, it is not clear that EC is providing any mechanism or guarantees to ensure that all sides of the conflict are fulfilling their responsibilities.

Mr Wolfensohn has made it quite clear that Israel must permit greater economic freedom for future aid to succeed. In turn, he stresses that this move is dependent on a proven long-term improvement in the security situation. In parallel, the Palestinians are required to enact full fiscal, social and judicial reform.

Second, the plans do not specify safeguards for the taxpayer, as demanded by OLAF in March 2005.

This lack of safeguards is of particular concern as the PA has yet to formulate a comprehensive set of economic and social proposals. The current proposals are largely European initiatives and suggestions, and as such are likely to be less effectively implemented than if they were carefully planned by the recipients.

This issue is readily illustrated with an anecdote, resulting from the 2005 visit by a Swedish Parliamentary delegation to Ramallah. The Swedes came prepared, in principle, to fund Palestinian projects, confident that the Palestinians would present specific proposals requiring financial assistance. Mahmoud Labadi, Director General of the Palestinian Legislative Council, astounded his guests by insisting that funding should be provided without any specific propositions. Only "when the occupation will finish" would the Palestinians have an opportunity or obligation to plan.

The taxpayer is left to ponder. The Palestinian will question is real aid will ever sink through to the man on the street.


The following is the text of the EC's press statement, including a link to the full communication.

http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/gaza/news/ip05_1224_en.htm

European Commission proposes comprehensive EU strategy for support to Palestinians


IP/05/1224 - Brussels, 05 October 2005

The Commission has adopted a Communication to the Council and the European Parliament "EU-Palestinian cooperation beyond disengagement - towards a two-state solution". The aim is to put in place a comprehensive, medium-term strategy for the EU's support to the Palestinians. The strategy focuses on the actions required to create a Palestinian state viable both politically and economically. This is a an immediate response to the new opportunities presented following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, and to the needs assessment currently being carried out by the Quartet Special Envoy, James Wolfensohn. Mr Wolfensohn has called on the International Community to double assistance to the Palestinians. This would imply an increase of 200 to 300 million in assistance from the Community budget. Provided Israel's disengagement from Gaza leads to progress in implementing the Road Map, and provided other donors also substantially increase their contributions, the Commission is ready to propose mobilisation of additional funds, subject to agreement with Member States and European Parliament. The strategy presented today builds on the immediate 60 million post-disengagement package already being implemented.

In Brussels, the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commented: "We must not let the chance created by Gaza withdrawal slip through our fingers. As the biggest donor to the Palestinians, the EU is determined to pull its weight, in facing up to the new opportunities and challenges post-disengagement. The strategy I have presented today sets out the tasks we can undertake, and under what conditions such assistance can bear fruit. I hope that this approach will be endorsed by Member States so that we can maximise our impact together".

She added: "Provided there is sufficient progress towards the Road Map, the Commission is ready to request the European Parliament and the Council to mobilise significant additional Community resources. We count on other donors to do likewise. Europe is ready to be a major partner for peace, as long as real efforts are made by all parties to create the climate for success".

The strategy builds on the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan agreed with the Palestinian Authority last year, but reflects new opportunities. It is to be hoped that the current situation post-disengagement will create the conditions in which the Palestinian economy can be relaunched, and the proposals in the Communication focus in detail on the need to support this aspect of preparations for Palestinian statehood, alongside its development the political administration.

The Communication identifies a number of other criteria that need to be fulfilled to justify further EU involvement, which is also contingent on progress being made in the 6 priority areas identified by the Quartet Special Envoy.

The Communication also encourages practical trilateral initiatives between the European Union, Israel and the Palestinians building on recent successes in the areas of energy and transport.

Supporting elections, the judicial system and the rule of law

Continue support to the electoral process; assist Palestinian reform efforts in the judiciary; develop short-term strategy for consolidating the rule of law including the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Criteria for EU involvement: implementation of EU election observer mission recommendations; commitment by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to carry out reforms set down in ENP Action Plan.

Promoting the reform of the Palestinian Authority

Support efforts to modernise revenue administration; provide assistance for further development of financial control.

Urgent measures are needed to support Palestinian reforms of public administration across the whole civil service. The EU should help strengthen performance, through technical assistance and twinning projects (creation of close bond with European administrators to share best practice).

Criteria for EU involvement: strengthened accountability of public institutions, progress on restructuring Ministries.

Improving the conditions for trade and investment in the Palestinian economy

To be sustainable economically, the West Bank and Gaza need help to tackle a continuing strong dependence on the Israeli economy, and greater efforts are needed to diversify markets. The priorities are:

  • The development of bilateral and regional trade relations, through improved market access for Palestinian products; technical assistance; dialogue to overcome regulatory obstacles; and integration of the Palestinian economy into the region.

  • Practical trilateral initiatives between the European Union, Israel and the Palestinians building on recent successes in the areas of energy and transport.

  • Building up a customs administration through the secondment of experts and, if all parties agree, through the provision of a third party monitoring presence at the border.

  • Creation of an enabling environment for private sector investment, through support to PA to review legal framework; support to the private sector through possible support for vocational training, and microcredits, resumption of EIB activities in the Palestinian Territories.

    Criteria for EU involvement: significant improvement in the security and access situation, and action on the six points identified by the Quartet envoy; Israeli guarantees on operation of land border crossings to the air and seaport.

    Reconstruct the infrastructure of the West Bank and Gaza strip.

    The Commission has already set out its initial plans to support infrastructure reconstruction (IP/05/1159: European Commission to support the Palestinians with 280 million in 2005). A further comprehensive reconstruction plan will need to encompass transport, energy, water and waste management, rural development, rebuilding of institutions such as courthouses and security complexes.

    Criteria for EU involvement: Movement and access restrictions for people and goods will have to be eased; coordination between donors necessary.


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