EU Inquiry Boost
totallyjewish.co.uk - 6 February 2003
by Justin Cohen
Hopes for a formal inquiry into the Palestinian Authorityís alleged misuse of EU funding were boosted this week with news that more than a quarter of MEPs have now backed the proposal.
Since October, members of the European Parliament of all political hues have added their names to a petition calling on Brussels to investigate how aid, amounting to around 10million euros each month, is being spent.
Last week the cross-party proposal, spearheaded by Tory Dr Charles Tannock, surpassed its target of 157 signatures, clearing the path for a possible debate on the issue.
A simple majority would be required to set up a committee of inquiry into whether funds have been illegally diverted to fund terrorism against Israeli civilians or for other disingenuous purposes. Palestinian funding is one of the biggest single demands on the European Union foreign aid budget.
The petition's success comes despite the Commissionís ongoing claims that there is no evidence of money being misused.
Tannock, Conservative spokesman on foreign affairs in the European parliament, said: "If nothing else, this may put pressure on the Commission to tighten up financial control mechanisms under the new finance minister who is of unquestioned integrity."
He denied the proposal was an attempt to "undermine" the Palestinian people, claiming an inquiry could lead to fresh aid for genuine causes like the reconstruction of the West Bank and Gaza.
The inquiry would be afforded substantial funding and would have wide-ranging powers to examine the available evidence, including through missions to the region.
But Conservative Friends of Israel chair Gillian Shephard expressed "astonishment" at the fact no British Labour or Liberal Democrat MEPs were so far among the signatories of the petition. CFI director Stuart Polak said: "I think the Jewish community should take note that once again the Conservative party has taken the lead."
Board of Deputies vice-president Tony Sacker said: "It is disappointing that not a single British Labour or Liberal Democrat MEP agreed to sign the petition.
"However we now expect the EU to take this request seriously and examine the wide-ranging evidence that is already available. Whilst terrorism continues in the middle east, there can be no end to suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians.
"A Commission of Inquiry is an absolute requisite if terrorism is to be brought to an end."