Inquiry urged to probe ‘link’ between terror and cash
Europeans pressurised over aid to Palestinians
John Miller, Bernard Josephs And Stefan Bialoguski - Jewish Chronicle - 8 November 2002
The European Commission is under pressure over its aid to the Palestinian Authority, amid allegations that some of the money is going towards funding terrorism.
In Brussels, British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock is mustering support for a parliamentary inquiry into the aid, a particularly controversial component of which are monthly £6.4-million payments directly to the PA’s account, introduced in June last year by External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten.
Mr Patten faced the European Parliament last week. Asked by Dr Tannock why he was resisting an inquiry into EU aid to the Palestinians, he said he needed such an inquiry "like a hole in the head." It would, he said, "make it look as though there were some legitimacy in these allegations. It would have the effect of drying up [aid] to the PA."
But German Christian Democrat MEP Armin Laschet, a member of the EU budget and foreign affairs committees, told the JC: "I’m sure that money from the PA goes to terrorists… That’s obvious."
Mr Laschet spearheaded a suspension of the unconditional monthly aid in May. MEPs questioned Mr Patten on the way payments were being monitored, but the arrangement was resumed after he insisted that there was "no reason to state that EU money has financed terrorism."
Israeli sources this week told the JC that in June, Mr Patten had written to PA chairman Yasir Arafat insisting that budgetary procedures be tightened up as a condition of future aid.
"In June, Mr Patten said everything was okay," said Mr Laschet, who separately became aware of the letter to Mr Arafat. "Now, the system has been changed. But if everything was okay… why did he change the system? I think he has admitted that something was wrong. The letter to Mr Arafat — which he didn’t tell parliament about — shows that he has learned something.
Still, said Mr Laschet, "even with changes, it’s never possible to control 10 million euros in direct aid every month."
Dr Tannock has collected more than half of the 157 signatures needed to force an inquiry into aid payments. But many MEPs are concerned by the political risk if an inquiry failed to prove conclusively that terrorists were benefiting from aid. Instead, they are pinning hopes for tighter controls on a consultative committee which MEPs pushed EC officials to agree to create this week.
Mr Laschet said, meanwhile: "We have to prove exactly what’s happening to the money we give. It’s not a question of politics, but of what’s happening to EU taxpayers’ money."