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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Palestine : « On n’entend plus la voix de l’Europe »

by Françoise Germain Robin (interviewer)

Palestine: "One Doesn’t Hear Europe’s Voice Any More"

Translated Tuesday 5 December 2006

Interview. The Belgian Euro-MP Véronique de Keyser is angry with the powerlessness of the European Union when it could be a major actor in the Middle-East. She is calling for the resumption of aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Euro-MP, Véronique de Keyser from Belgium, a member of the Socialist group in the European Parliament, headed the European Observation Mission to the Palestinian elections in January 2006. After the Israeli aggression against Gaza and the Beit Hanoun massacre, she has once more called for the freezing of the association agreement between the EU and Israel, and for the resumption of European aid to the Palestinian Authority. She was interviewed by l’Humanité.

HUMA: Why are you asking the resumption of aid now ? Is there a new element in the situation in Palestine?

VERONIQUE DE KEYSER: It is not just today that I am asking for the resumption of aid. Since the Palestinian elections, which I remind you were democratic, I haven’t stopped criticizing and denouncing the policy we are following in Palestine. The freeze on direct aid from the European Union, without even a “Plan B” to replace it, is, as far as I am concerned, criminal. We are allowing misery and chaos to take over in Palestine, with all their inevitable consequences.

HUMA: Why, according to you, has the EU taken such a serious decision?

VERONIQUE DE KEYSER: Certainly, under the pressure of the “Quartet” - the United States, the UN, Europe and Russia, the European Union - doesn’t make its own decisions any more on the Palestinian question. All decisions go through the Quartet, meaning the United States. I asked Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign minister: “Do you think our presence in the Quartet has helped or hindered the peace process?” I am still waiting for the answer.

Politically, the European Union acts like an ostrich, refusing to look at reality or face its reponsibilities. The European Union didn’t protest when the border passage at Rafah, which had been controlled by the EU, was taken back by the Israelis. One doesn’t hear the voice of Europe any more. Europe is there on the ground, is spending enormous amounts of money, but is incapable of stopping a massacre.

HUMA: Some newspaper articles claim that aid from the EU to the Palestinians has increased and not diminished. What is the real case?

VERONIQUE DE KEYSER: I saw those numbers. What I can remind you is that cutting off the funds which used to be handed over to the Authority to pay the salaries of civil servants – the police, health-care workers, teachers - has brought misery to thousand of families. As a result, there is no more security, the schools are closed and health care is stretched beyond the limits. As for the funds which are paid indirectly, this is going mostly to Israel to pay for the gas and electricity needed by the Palestinians. The rest is humanitarian aid and much of this money goes through complicated distribution channels, run by NGOs, soaking up a good part of the funds.

Today we are faced with this absurd situation. The Americans refuse to pay the official police force to carry out its work, but wants to bring in the Jordanian presidential guard with new equipment to fight the Hamas militias. If one wanted to ignite a civil war, this is exactly the way to do it. The situation is unacceptable and a disastrous failure for Europe, which carries major responsibility for this whole mess.

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