EU suspends aid to Palestine
The EU has suspended all aid and development assistance to Palestine in the wake of the attack by militant group Hamas on Israel, the bloc announced on Monday. Further aid-related budget proposals have also been postponed “until further notice,” according to EU Neighborhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi.
Brussels will review its entire aid and development policy towards Palestine, the official said, claiming that the “scale of terror and brutality against Israel and its people” was a “turning point” for the EU.
“There can be no business as usual,” Varhelyi said in a series of posts on X (formerly Twitter). “We need action and we need it now.”
The comments came following a surprise attack by Hamas which saw militants breach Gaza’s border with Israel and briefly overrun several settlements after a massive rocket attack. The Israeli authorities have estimated that more than 700 people were killed in the assault and over 2,200 injured.
According to Varhelyi, the EU has been “the biggest donor” to the Palestinians and Monday’s decision will affect development aid worth €691 million ($728.8 million). “All payments [are] immediately suspended. All projects [have been] put under review,” he said, adding that “the foundations for peace, tolerance and co-existence must now be addressed.”
The commissioner further stated that “incitement of hatred, violence, and glorification of terror have poisoned the minds of so many.” According to the Financial Times, the EU had pledged a total of €1.18 billion ($1.24 billion) in support for both the West Bank and Gaza between 2021 and 2024.
The EU Commission denied that any of its funding had gone to Hamas, which it designates as a terrorist group. “The EU is not funding Hamas or their terrorist activities directly or indirectly,” the bloc said in the wake of Saturday’s attack, adding that it had maintained a “no contact policy” with the organization since 2007.
The decision by Brussels came a day after Berlin announced that it would also halt aid to Palestinians and review assistance and development programs. German Development Minister Svenja Schulze called the Hamas attack a “terrible turning point,” stating that Berlin would “examine our entire commitment to the Palestinian territories.”
The decision was criticized by German MP Gregor Gysi, a prominent Left Party member, who insisted that not all Palestinians should be held accountable for the actions of Hamas. “Palestinian organizations can and must be supported, but Hamas cannot,” he told Der Spiegel.
Editor’s note: Several hours after Oliver Varhelyi’s announcement, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made a statement directly contradicting it. The official said Brussels would not suspend aid payments to Palestine, as that would have “damaged EU interests in the region,” punished Palestinian people, and “only further emboldened terrorists.” Read more here.