It would be ‘counterproductive’ for the EU to cut aid when Palestinians need help more than ever, says Jose Manuel Albares
The EU needs to continue providing aid for the Palestinian people, who should not be equated with the Hamas group, Spain’s acting foreign minister argued on Tuesday.
“We cannot confuse Hamas, a terrorist organization, with the Palestinian people and authorities,” Jose Manuel Albares told Spanish broadcaster Cadena Ser in an interview.
He added that he believes EU Commissioner for Enlargement Oliver Varhelyi’s Monday announcement that the EU was going to immediately halt payments to Palestine was a unilateral decision.
Varhelyi, a Hungarian commissioner, was appointed by the country’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Albares said he and other member state foreign ministers had not been consulted or informed before Varhelyi’s announcement. He also pointed to the European Commission’s quick U-turn on the statement, in which it clarified that it was not suspending payments to Palestine but will review its support programs.
Albares said he spoke with Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, to ensure this matter will be on the agenda at Tuesday afternoon’s emergency meeting of foreign ministers. He said he will be the first to speak about aid and will make Spain’s position clear.
“What we are going to need in the days to come isn’t less aid, it’s more humanitarian aid for Palestinians,” said Albares.
‘Aid isn’t problematic’
He also explained that he spoke to several of his European counterparts and that the majority believe that “the cooperation between the EU and Palestine isn’t problematic.”
Albares insisted that Spain has been “scrupulously” working with Palestinian authorities and UN officials on the ground for decades and has never found a problem with where the money is going.
However, this issue has the potential to trigger a showdown between EU leaders. Countries like Ireland, Denmark, and Luxembourg reportedly agreed with Spain’s position but Germany and Austria already said they were temporarily halting national aid for Palestine.
Albares said the only “review” of Palestinian aid that Spain would accept is looking at whether specific projects can continue to be funded due to destruction. For instance, he said that if a hospital has been destroyed, clearly they cannot continue funding that hospital.
“Anything else would be counterproductive because we would be taking authority away from the Palestinians who are on the side of peace, who viewed the Hamas acts with horror,” he explained. “We cannot doubly punish the people who are terrified about the consequences of the terrorist acts by unjustly cutting the aid that they need more than ever.”
On Tuesday, Albares later announced that Spain was preparing a military rescue mission for tourists who have been trapped in Israel and cannot return because commercial flights were suspended.
He added that Spain is not offering to evacuate those who reside in Israel.