Misuse of EU Funds by Palestinian Authority
Question to the Commission - 23rd October 2002
If Commissioner Patten or his office take this view, then why have they so strongly resisted the initiative by myself and Members from other political groups to raise signatures in this House to request that Parliament set up a committee of inquiry into these very grave allegations? If what he says is correct, surely such a body would vindicate his position, clear the air and reject these ongoing allegations of funding of terrorist activities by the PLO, but also, perhaps more insidiously, the funding of race hatred and the brainwashing of young Palestinians in their schools, which furthers long-term animosity and potentially creates future suicide bombers?
Commissioner Patten's reply
The honourable Member has added to the first part of his question allegations about Palestinian textbooks being funded by the European Union. Again and again, in this Chamber and in committees, we have pointed out that these allegations are totally without foundation.
We have made available to Members of this House the report by heads of mission in Jerusalem, which again exposes the extent to which this is a simple, straightforward fabrication. So when the honourable Member asks me: why do I not welcome a committee of inquiry into a previous set of fabrications? What on earth does he think I will say? Setting up such an inquiry - and I do not for one moment think that this House would vote for it - would make it look as though there were some legitimacy in these allegations.
Furthermore, if you set up an inquiry like this, just think of the impact on everybody in my services who ever has to sign a cheque for UNWRA or for anything to do with the Palestinian Authority. It would have the effect of drying up assistance to the Palestinian Authority and to UN and humanitarian organisations because of the psychological effect, and this at a moment when we are preparing for the ad hoc liaison committee donors' meeting in early December, when the European Union - and my thanks to the budgetary authority and my colleague, the Commissioner for the budget - will be expected to take a lead in providing more humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians. Who will expect us to do that? The Americans will, the UN will and the Israelis will - not to mention the rest of the international community.
So I say to the honourable Member, and I am sure that his question is not prompted by any malign motives, that the notion that this proposal to set up an inquiry is somehow helpful to me and to the cause of humanitarian relief in Palestine and to finding a political accommodation to save us from this blood feud, is about as far from reality as it is possible to go. I would like a committee of inquiry on these issues like a 'hole in the head'!