The European Union has stopped aid to the Palestinians after the attack by Hamas.

  • The reaction of EU member states forced Brussels to back down.
  • The Hungarian commissioner announced the suspension of payments.
  • EU foreign ministers are holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday.

BRUSSELS/BERLIN, Oct 9 (Reuters) – The European Union was thrown into disarray on Monday by an announcement that aid to the Palestinians had been halted in response to a Hamas attack on Israel after EU countries complained. was that the block executive had exceeded the mark.

The confusion began when the EU’s top official for relations with its neighbors, Olivier Verhaile, said the European Commission was reviewing all its development aid to the Palestinians, worth 691 million euros ($729 million).

In a post on social media site X, Várhely – a Hungarian who is the European Commissioner for Neighborhoods and Enlargement – also said that all payments were “immediately suspended”.

Vrhely was nominated to the post by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a staunch ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The announcement raised concerns among several governments, which warned against cutting off aid to harm Palestinian civilians and questioned whether the commission had the authority to make such a decision.

The move also came as a surprise as officials said earlier in the day that aid to the Palestinians would be discussed at an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on Tuesday.

Diplomats said Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland raised the alarm publicly, while others did so behind the scenes.

“Our understanding is that there is no legal basis for such a unilateral decision by an individual commissioner and we do not support the suspension of aid,” a spokesman for Ireland’s foreign ministry said.

More than five hours after Varhelyi’s social media post, the commission issued a statement confirming that it had begun a review of the immediate aid but also announcing that “since the payments There was no estimate, so payments will not be suspended”.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell then added to the confusion when he said the EU would not suspend “purported payments” – when the Commission said no payments had been made.

The commission declined to explain the discrepancy. But he clarified that humanitarian aid – which is separate from development funds – would continue.

It said it was reviewing to ensure that any EU funding did not indirectly enable a terrorist organization to carry out attacks against Israel.

Hamas militants killed nearly 900 Israelis and kidnapped dozens in the deadliest such incursion since the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago, in which Israel responded with its heaviest-ever bombardment of Gaza. In which more than 680 people have died.

Long standing divisions

The EU’s disarray reflects long-standing divisions within the 27-strong bloc over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even as its members united to condemn Saturday’s attack.

Germany and Austria said on Monday they were suspending their development aid to the Palestinians, while others such as Italy said they would not negotiate a freeze on aid.

Europe is one of the main sources of aid for the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, where the United Nations estimates that some 2.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including one million children.

The total EU aid allocated to the Palestinian people under the 2022 budget was €296 million.

Neither the EU Commission, Germany nor Austria distinguished between Gaza, the Palestinian enclave ruled by Hamas, and the much larger West Bank, ruled by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas, which was conquered by the Hamas movement. There is a rival.

In Germany, Development Minister Svenja Schulze of the Social Democrats said there were currently no payments for bilateral aid projects as Berlin reassessed its engagement with the Palestinian territories.

“It is also an expression of our unwavering solidarity with Israel,” he told a news conference.

The German Development Ministry has allocated 250 million euros in development funds for bilateral projects in the Palestinian territories for this year and next. He did not say how much he has already distributed this year.

German politicians have in recent times emphasized their country’s duty to Israel and its security, given its historical responsibility for the Holocaust. The Israeli flag was hoisted over Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate on Saturday night.

Still, some politicians pushed back against the decision to suspend aid, saying Hamas but not all Palestinians were responsible for the attack.

Furthermore, a spokesman for the Greens-run Foreign Ministry said it would continue to distribute 73 million euros earmarked for the Palestinians – which was separate from development ministry funds, and most of which had already been spent.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schillenberg said the country was suspending about 19 million euros ($20 million) in development aid for a handful of projects.

Neutral Austria’s ruling conservatives have taken the most pro-Israel stance in the EU in recent years. Israeli flags have been flown over the chancellor’s office and the foreign ministry after the Hamas attack.

Reporting by Andrew Gray in Brussels, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Sarah Marsh and Markus Wecht in Berlin; Additional reporting by Angela Amante in Rome and Kate Holton in London; Editing by Alison Williams, Nick McPhee and Grant McColl

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Andrew is a senior correspondent for European security and diplomacy based in Brussels. He covers NATO and EU foreign policy. A journalist for nearly 30 years, he has previously lived in Britain, Germany, Geneva, the Balkans, West Africa and Washington, where he reported on the Pentagon. He covered the Iraq War in 2003 and contributed a chapter to a Reuters book on the conflict. He has also worked as a senior editor and podcast host at Politico Europe, as editor-in-chief of the Fellowship Program for Balkan Journalists, and as a contributor to the BBC’s Our Own Correspondents radio show. has put

Chief correspondent covering political and general news in Germany, with Reuters’ broader Caribbean coverage in Argentina and Cuba.

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