(JTA) – Citing alleged corruption by Palestinian recipients of aid money, the European Parliament’s Israel-relations czar urged more conditionality by European Union (EU) donor states.
Fulvio Martusciello, the chairman of the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Israel, issued the call during a parliamentary debate Wednesday in Strasbourg on EU funding for the Middle East, his office wrote in a statement.
“We are talking millions-euro projects that see part of their funds going to individuals who actually shouldn’t receive a single euro,” Martusciello, an Italian delegate for the centre-right People’s Party bloc, said. “The money comes from EU taxpayers and we need to exercise tight control on it.”
Martusciello cited a 2013 report by the European Court of Auditors that found the Palestinians had been using European money for years to pay Palestinian Authority (PA) employees in the Gaza Strip, some of whom had not actually worked in seven years.
Palestinian Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani defended the payments, saying the employees had families to support. Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since a bloody 2007, coup replaced the PA workers with its own loyalists.
The European Parliament in April 2014 adopted a non-binding resolution saying that payroll problems raise concerns about money laundering and terrorist financing.
It also noted the PA’s controversial salary payments to the families of terrorists serving time in Israeli jails. In an unprecedented move, the parliament also called for future EU funding to be conditioned on Palestinian compliance with reform recommendations.
Set up in 1979, the delegation headed by Martusciello is responsible for parliamentary ties with Israel.
According to data discussed at the meeting, the European Union gives $335 million each year in aid to the Palestinian Authority, in addition to individual donations by member states. Since 1994, $7.7 billion in EU funds have been transferred to Ramallah, including for capacity building.
In 2013, EU humanitarian aid to Bangladesh, a disaster-prone and poor nation with a population of over 155 million, totaled in at $12.3 million, according to the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department. In 2013, the department provided $37.7 million for humanitarian aid for approximately 6.5 million Palestinians.