EU: The PA did not refuse to cooperate with us

An EU team here last week to discuss “modalities of EU engagement in the peace process” did not demand nor were refused an accounting by the Palestinian Authority of payments made to incarcerated terrorists and their families, an EU spokeswoman said Sunday.

Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who co-sponsored a bill last week requiring the government deduct from the duties and tariffs it collects for the PA money it pays to prisoners and their families, said on Sunday that the EU is now following Australia’s lead and asking the PA for an accounting of its funding.

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Australia last week discontinued $7.4 million in direct funding to the PA because of concern that the money is making PA payments to terrorists and their families possible.

According to Stern, the PA is not cooperating with the Europeans, and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah refused to give an accounting to the EU of the use of the EU funds to the PA.

“I believe today even more that the law will bring to a reduction of terror and will save lives,” Stern said.

But Sharon Offenberger, a spokeswoman at the EU delegation in Israel, said she was not aware that the Palestinians refused to cooperate with the EU.

She said this seems like a “misinterpretation and complete speculation of what came out of the recent review mission.”

European Commission Director-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Christian Danielsson and Managing Director for Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service Fernando Gentilini held consultations last week with Israeli and Palestinian officials “on the ongoing review of modalities of EU engagement on the ground in support of a two-state solution.”

According to an EU statement, the purpose of the visit was not to reduce the current level of EU funding or review EU policies on the Middle East peace process, but rather to ensure “that all the modalities of the European Union’s engagement – the EU’s activities and instruments, the EU’s diplomatic engagement, financial assistance and EU civilian missions – are as efficient and as effective as possible to advance the goal of a two-state solution, including in Gaza, which, together with the West Bank, is an integral part of a future Palestinian state.”

Offenberger said the EU did not need to ask about payments to the prisoners and their families, since that money comes out of the PLO budget, and has been widely reported. The EU, she said, does not give money to the PLO, and its money to the PA goes for specific projects with a “stringent system” in place ensuring that the EU knows where the funds are going.