Managing European Taxpayers' Money - Chris Patten Can't Comment

The Need for Transparency - Tens of Thousands Support the Call

by Brad Neilson

October 18, 2004

September was one of those quiet months in Europe politics. Many politicians and civil servants could be seen recovering from their holidays.

Meanwhile, at The Funding For Peace Coalition (FPC), positive reaction to its report on Supporting The Palestinian Arabs - A Study In Transparency has continued to flow in.

Tens of thousands of people have directly read our media release, visited our website, or downloaded the report. Many, many more have read the internet and press coverage we received in English, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Finnish and even Japanese. The report has been widely circulated by email, and our members have made a concerted effort to bring the report to the attention of their own elected representatives.

One direct result is that MEPs from three different countries have written to inform us of their intention to ask questions of the Commission and in the Parliament when it reconvenes in the autumn.

The report draws a direct line between international funding of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and other related organisations and the nepotism enveloping the Palestinian society as well as the violence emanating from within. This is not just a betrayal of the average Palestinian, who rightfully expects better direction of this investment; it is a rebuff of the European taxpayer and the trust placed in the "system".

At the same time, evidence of duplicity continues to reach the FPC.

For example, a report by the Arab journalist Kahled Abu Toameh on September 27 clearly details new links between the PA and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, which has been outlawed by the EU as a terrorist gang. Jihad Hassan (Abu Naiim) was not only the Brigades commander in Salfit. Fatah has also admitted that he was a lieutenant in their General Intelligence forces, which is part of the PA.

It should be remembered that the EU has deliberately set out to support the payroll of the PA, while continuously claiming that there are no terrorists in its membership. In fact, the European Commission declared '...If any evidence comes to light that the PA is knowingly employing members of terrorist organisations, the PA will need to act immediately to take these people off the payroll and bring them to justice.'

What Mr. Patten Did Not Say

The Rt. Hon. Chris Patten is preparing to leave office. His reign as European Commissioner for External Relations has seen an unprecedented and massive funding for the PA and related organizations; approximately 2 billion from the EU and a similar amount from member states.

His final remarks on the Middle East (click here to see the full text), did not shed any light on where this money went, but reiterated his belief in the need for a reformed PA while continually demanding that Israel allow this body to operate freely. He did note that the Palestinians have taken "too little action".

The sad fact is that for all the masterful rhetoric, his speech says no more than:

  1. Europeans have handed over a lot of money, although he still cannot say where it has gone.
  2. The Israelis are to blame for the Palestinians' lack of reform.
  3. Therefore, the Israelis are to blame for the violence and lack of progress towards peace.

And here's the big catch for Mr. Patten. He has consistently argued for more financial aid to the Palestinians on the grounds that reform was taking place. However, his speech failed to relate to a recent poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research . This found that 93% of Palestinians supported reform, although only half thought it would happen. And 88% of those questioned believe that corruption exists in the institutions of the Palestinian Authority. It would appear that even Palestinian society disagrees with Mr. Patten about to the causes of the failure of vast sums of European aid money to provide real change.

Europe And UNRWA

One of Mr. Patten's favourite projects has been the support of UNRWA. This is the UN's largest and most venerable relief agency. UNRWA was established in 1950 with a three-year mandate, seeking to quickly repeat the success of the UNRRA (which was officially closed after resolving the massive refugee populations created by World War II in a mere six years). Now into its 18th three-year term, UNRWA has resources that dwarf those poured into any humanitarian disaster previously confronted by mankind. The EU and individual members have invested hundreds of millions of Euros into the organisation.

Yet, confusion has surrounded the role of UNRWA. This site documents elsewhere the infiltration of Hamas and its ideologies into UNRWA schools and teaching facilities, and the resulting promotion of continued violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Recent Israeli charges of the use of and ambulance to transport a Kassam rocket were proved false, but in answering them UNRWA's Commissioner General, Mr. Peter Hansen, admitted for the first time that UNRWA employs Hamas members. In fact, he said on Canadian radio that he did not 'see that as a crime.'

This admission has severely embarrassed international donors, particularly in Europe, where Hamas has been outlawed as a terrorist organisation. Canada too has asked UNRWA for clarifications. It would seem that this admitted funding of the Hamas payroll puts at risk the whole UNRWA infrastructure.

Presumably with this in mind, UNRWA began to suspend staff previously arrested by Israel for security reasons - something that was only revealed through public objections by the Palestinian Communist Party.

Following Israel's retraction of the Kassam rocket story, both Hansen and Kofi Annan demanded an apology from Jerusalem. Instead, the Israelis supplied UN investigators with multiple evidence of the misuse of UN vehicles and personnel

Why do donors allow aid to be diverted towards violence and nepotism? When will donors insist on proper accounting controls so that Palestinians receive all the aid sent?

More On Transparency

Finally, running parallel to all these stories is the long running saga of Marta Andreasen, the suspended former Chief Accountant and whistleblower of the EU. It is now two years since she was suspended for claiming that the Commission's accounting system was widely open to fraud and abuse. As the current Commission nears the formal end of its term, it is expected that she will be formally sacked in the early autumn.

Naturally, this game of political musical chairs is taking place outside the strict parameters of FPC's remit. At the same time, her tribulations force us to ask serious questions: If Ms Andreasen had managed to implement true reforms within the EU, how much of the EU money for the Palestinians would have finally reached its true target? Could further handouts have been saved? And why has OLAF not attempted to apply her procedures to its ever-dragging investigation.

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