How the EU skirted the ban on funding terrorist groups
EU functionaries are using technicalities to assure Palestinian organizations that new EU rules against financing groups directly or indirectly linked to terrorism do not apply to them.
A letter sent by a representative of the European Union to the Palestinian Authority, which includes a promise to find a way around new EU instructions that prohibit the transfer of any financial aid to civil groups that are directly or indirectly linked to terrorism has aroused strong criticism in Israel as well as the EU.
On March 30, German diplomat Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff sent the letter to the umbrella organization that represents Palestinian civil groups, announcing continued funding for their activities, even if their members include individuals who are linked to terrorist groups.
The main paragraph in contention states: "It is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with, or supporting any of the groups or entities mentioned in the EU restrictive list is not excluded from benefiting from EU-funded activities unless his/her exact name and surname (confirming his/her identity) corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists."
After the letter was made public, members of the EU Parliament have demanded an investigation into the EU representatives in the PA for allegedly violating EU policy. The parliament wants to determine whether the EU Commission knew about the step he was taking.
Now the American Jewish Committee's Transatlantic Institute in Brussels has revealed that Von Burgsdorff 's letter was preceded by two other similar commitments from senior EU functionaries to the Palestinians, which would appear to indicate a consistent policy of skirting the ban on funding organizations with ties to terrorism, rather than a rogue move by one official.
According to the American Jewish Committee, a few days after the EU adopted the ban on funding groups whose members and/or activity is linked to terrorism, Von Burgsdorff 's predecessor, Thomas Nicholson, promised Palestinian groups that the new regulation did not apply to them.
In a meeting with representatives of the umbrella organization that represents Palestinian civil groups on Dec. 19, Nicholson reported told them that because the EU "terrorism" list did not include the names of Palestinian individuals, there were no new conditions or commitments not to fund any one of the seven organizations on the list, and there was "no commitment or expectation" on the part of the EU that it would "discriminate against" any person because of his or her political affiliations.
The Palestinian organizations argue that the Palestinian organizations that appear on the EU blacklist – Hamas, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – are "political parties."
A month later, representatives of the Palestinian groups met with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, and another other senior functionaries from the international cooperation department in the EU Commission, both of whom assured the Palestinians that the new regulation that prohibited the EU from funding terrorist activity did not place the groups that received the EU money under "any new or different commitments."
Ana Pisonero-Hernandez, the spokesperson for Neighborhood and Enlargement, International Cooperation and Development, provided a general statement about EU policy, objecting to allegations of its supporting incitement or terror.
"Recipients of EU funding are required to ensure that these funds are not made available, either directly or indirectly, to entities, individuals or groups, which have been designated under EU restrictive measures, or to their representatives," she said. When asked whether or not von Burgsdorrf's letter is compatible with this policy, she responded: "Our rules have not changed on this matter and they are very clear."
"The letter sent by Ambassador Kuhn von Burgsdorff refers exclusively to the application of our restrictive measures and explains to Palestinian beneficiaries (= civil society organizations) their own contractual obligations related to compliance with EU sanction lists. It did not intend to reflect the full range of safeguards that are in place. These safeguards make the participation of entities, individuals, or groups affiliated/linked/supporting terrorist organizations categorically incompatible with any EU funding. There have been misleading suggestions that compliance with the EU restrictive measures is a new obligation or that it was specific to Palestine. This is not the case. We are doing the necessary outreach to make this position very clear to all those who are concerned," she said.
JNS.org contributed to this report.