Clarity, Coherence, Transparency and Objective of EU Policy Vis à Vis Occupied Territories/Israel II
This contribution deals with the issue of resilience, coordination of EU Member States and the Israeli controlled Area C
All the issues mentioned in Bettina’s introduction constitute a serious fragmentation of the EU’s work as a donor, especially in East Jerusalem, to begin with the status of the EU Delegation or as it is called the ‘Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank, Gaza Strip and UNRWA’. The EU office for the support to the Palestinians is at a symbolic place, at the settlement of French Hill which can be considered as a message that the EU does not recognise the expansive settlement policy of Israel beyond the Green Line. However, the EU Delegation in East Jerusalem does not fly a flag, i.e. it looks like a common house and can barely be recognised as a diplomatic representation. Moreover, the Israeli authorities have refused to give diplomatic status to the staff, as is the case with the EU staff in Tel Aviv. They will only grant the full diplomatic status if the office moves from Jerusalem to Ramallah.
The issue of resilience is particularly prominent in the case of East Jerusalem for which the EU does not seem to have a political agenda. The amount of money that is spent on projects in the city is roughly ten million euro per year, which is minimal compared to the people’s needs. Moreover, the entire project has resilience as its main objective, meaning the protection of the Palestinian culture and identity until the realisation of a two state solution. This kind of projects, including the project implemented by our office, focuses on psychosocial support of women and children, gender based violence, cultural activities and support to the Palestinian institutions of East Jerusalem. In our project for instance we train Palestinian teachers in coordination with the Palestinian Ministry of Education. The hbs office in Ramallah supports a HelpLine for victims of violence (especially women and young girls); we offer art training for the youth and we support women to open their own businesses. Of course all these services are much needed for the survival of the population. On the other hand, they just eternalise the situation on the ground and the status quo, since they are not combined with a political plan and political pressure on Israel.
Coordination of Member States
The challenges for the EU’s work in East Jerusalem are not only a result of Israeli policies, but also of the lack of coordination between the different Member States, the fact that they never speak with one voice when it comes to the conflict. One simple example is the definition of East Jerusalem. We faced many difficulties in the beginning of the implementation of our project because the EU could not provide us with a definition of East Jerusalem because of the different perceptions of the Member States. In the end, our work in the greater Jerusalem area had to stop as it included controversial areas which are not considered as Jerusalem by all EU Member States.
Apart from the issue of demolitions of EU funded structures and its serious financial impact, another important topic is the permit regime and the EU’s stance towards this regime. As a donor, the EU applies its funding rules and regulations in all the beneficiary countries. It is under these rules a permit has to be obtained from the respective authorities according to the domestic law when it comes to construction works. Even if the EU does not recognise and condemns the Israeli expansion of settlements in Area C and the strict restrictions imposed on the Palestinians to build there, obtaining a permit to do construction works in Area C is a requirement in order to consider the costs eligible in case of a demolition by the Israeli authorities, under an EU funded project.
Until now, the EU efforts in East Jerusalem have been rather scattered and funds have been wasted on the duplication of efforts with other donors, or on actions that are not sustainable and without any real impact on the ground. In order to have visible and sustainable results all these resilience actions and projects need to be accompanied by political pressure or at least with a political vision to start with. The EU has the leverage to do that and it should use it. Moreover, the EU needs to recognise explicitly the particularity of this conflict and these two neighbouring partners and treat them in a more appropriate and tailor made way through the reviewed ENP.