Does the EU really want to end its Palestine aid?

Olivér Várhelyi from Hungary presents himself as Israel’s most hardline supporter at the top level of the Brussels bureaucracy. (Via Twitter)

The European Union has never really been frank about its aid to Palestine.

International law obligates Israel to meet the basic needs of people living under its occupation.

By positioning itself as the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, the EU is relieving Israel of its obligations.

To put it more bluntly, the EU is paying a huge number of the bills for the occupation – something which its representatives are loath to acknowledge.

Because this situation has endured since the time of the Oslo accords in the 1990s, an abrupt halt to EU aid would have grave consequences.

Among those in favor of an abrupt halt are Olivér Várhelyi, Hungary’s EU commissioner.

In fact, Várhelyi announced such a halt this week. .

“All payments” by the EU to Palestinians were “immediately suspended,” he claimed.

It soon emerged that Várhelyi had gone rogue.

Várhelyi is already regarded as Israel’s most hardline supporter at the top table of the European Commission (the EU’s executive). Now, he was demanding that all Palestinians must be made feel greater pain because Hamas had led an offensive against the Gaza blockade.

Within a matter of hours, the European Commission put out a statement contradicting Várhelyi’s claim. “There will be no suspension of payments,” the European Commission affirmed.

Although an “urgent review” of EU aid to Palestine has been ordered, some continuity has been assured.

When I asked for clarification, the EU’s foreign policy spokesperson Peter Stano confirmed “there are no changes to the two EU civilian missions” in Palestine.


These “civilian missions” both make the EU directly complicit in Israel’s crimes.

One is a policing operation known as EUPOL COPPS. Based in the West Bank city of Ramallah, its aim is to boost cooperation between the Palestinian Authority’s forces and the Israeli occupation.

The other is a “border assistance mission” known as EUBAM.

Set up in November 2005, its official purpose was to have an EU team supervise the implementation of a deal whereby Palestinians could travel into Egypt via Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city.

The deal was no triumph for free movement.

Israel undertook video surveillance of all travelers and was given their names. The “mission” thereby made the EU a subcontractor to Israel’s occupation.

The “mission” was effectively put on ice in 2006, when Israel took the initial steps towards imposing a complete blockade on Gaza.

Yet the EU has kept extending the mandate of the “mission” on an annual basis. In the perverse world of Brussels politics, there really are people who hold out hope that the EU will once again help Israel to surveil Palestinians.


Olivér Várhelyi – whose portfolio gives him responsibility for the EU’s relations with neighboring countries – has displayed his sadistic side previously.

During 2021 and much of 2022, he prevented a package worth around $230 million from being released to the Palestinian Authority. Large numbers of patients with serious diseases were denied surgery as a result.

Várhelyi blocked that aid over allegations that Palestinian school books (which the EU doesn’t even finance) were promoting intolerance. The allegations were were based on wild exaggerations and outright lies by the pro-Israel lobby.

Predictably, the pro-Israel was quick to applaud Várhelyi’s solo run this week.

So far, he has not retracted his announcement about the “immediate” suspension of aid.

Similar announcements or threats have been made by the governments of Germany and Austria.

France, by contrast, has indicated that it has a more positive view on aid to Palestine.

As a major EU player, France is hardly taking such a stance due to any sense of generosity.

The EU and the US have long propped up the Palestinian Authority because they want it to be a “partner” for the Israeli occupation. That is why the Biden administration approved a fresh injection of weapons to the Palestinian Authority recently – even after Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s eternal leader, was widely denounced for Holocaust denial.

Every so often, articles appear in the media about the EU being divided on the question of Palestinian.

The real division is one of optics.

There is a camp – led (at least in his own mind) by Olivér Várhelyi of Hungary – which wants to be as cruel as possible toward Palestinians.

There is another camp – led at least this week by France – that tries to look a bit more reasonable. It purports to be concerned about Palestinians, while endeavoring to prolong Israel’s occupation.

Both camps are dangerous.

Both camps are enemies of freedom.