Irish MP slams EU “hypocrisy,” calls for suspension of EU-Israel agreement

Statement by Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Member of parliament for Dublin South Central and Sinn Féin spokesman on Justice, Equality and International affairs, commenting on parliamentary reply by Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern.

Decision on funding highlights on-going hypocrisy of EU in relation to illegal occupation of Palestine

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Commenting on a parliamentary question reply that he received from the Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the decision by the EU to block funding to the Palestinian National Authority, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on International Affairs Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh welcomed Minister Ahern’s stated determination to maintain the overall volume of this state’s bilateral assistance to the Palestinian people and said Sinn Fein will hold him to this.

However, Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, “in light of this commitment and the overwhelming public support for Palestine in Ireland and across Europe, I am dismayed and frustrated that he did not vote against the European Council’s decision to revise its assistance to Palestine.”

He said, “The Council’s decision highlights the on-going hypocrisy that characterises the positions taken by the EU in relation to the illegal occupation of Palestine. On the one hand Palestinians are being punished, with real economic sanctions, simply because of who they chose to vote for. On the other, Israel is merely “urged” to take steps to improve the lot of Palestinians under occupation. The EU has been “urging” Israel for years.

The Council and each Member State must suspend preferential trade with Israel until such time as it renounces violence, recognises Palestine’s right to exist and accepts previous agreements and obligations. This type of action against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory is long overdue.

“All across Europe Human Rights and Palestine Solidarity organisations are demanding that the EU overturn its decision to block funds to the Palestinian National Authority. It is up to each Member State beginning with this one and Dermot Ahern to reflect these demands at Council level.”

Questions submitted by Mr. Aengus Ó Snodaigh to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Dermot Ahern, for written answer on Wednesday, 26th April, 2006:

Question No. 206

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the action the Government plans to take in order to ensure that the EU rescinds the decision to withdraw funding from the Palestinian National Authority. - Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

Question No. 207

To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Government intends to increase the funding provided directly to the Palestinian National Authority in order to assist with the shortfall resulting from the recent EU decision to withdraw funding from the Palestinian National Authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Reply from Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Dermot Ahern

I propose to take questions 205, 206 and 207 together.

The meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council which I attended in Luxembourg on 10 April reviewed developments in the Middle East Peace Process in the light of the approval of a new Government by the Palestinian Legislative Council and the outcome of the Israeli general elections. There was consensus in the Council that the EU would review its assistance to the Palestinians against the new Government’s commitment to the principles set out by the Council and by the international Quartet on 30 January. These entail renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including those of the Roadmap for a lasting and peaceful settlement based on the co-existence of two viable States.

The Council noted that the absence of commitment to the principles set out clearly by the international community will inevitably have an effect on direct assistance to the Government. However, it stressed that the EU will continue to provide necessary assistance to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population. In the review process now underway, Ireland will press for a generous and wide-ranging interpretation of what constitutes this necessary assistance. At the same time, I would emphasise that positive movement from Hamas would greatly facilitate such an approach, and would serve the interests of the Palestinian people.

The Council also urged Israel to take steps to improve the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinians including resumption of transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues.

The Government is strongly committed to continuing Ireland’s bilateral assistance to the Palestinian people, with particular emphasis on meeting humanitarian needs. We The Government is strongly committed to continuing Ireland’s bilateral assistance to the Palestinian people, with particular emphasis on meeting humanitarian needs. We have already made clear that we are determined to maintain the overall volume of our assistance, which amounted to over €4 million in 2005. I can assure the Deputy that, both nationally and in cooperation with our EU partners, the Government will continue to promote a lasting, just and peaceful settlement of the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. We will also do all that is within our capacity to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, while taking full account of the wider political realities.