Ecosoc: Statement by Ambassador Vesa Himanen on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory
Economic and Social Repercussions of the Israeli Occupation on the Living Conditions of the Palestinian People in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab Population in the occupied Syrian Golan
Geneva, 27 July 2006. Statement by H.E. Mr. Vesa Himanen, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Finland Geneve, on behalf of the European Union
I have the honour to speak for the European Union.
The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia , the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.
The EU would like to start by thanking the sponsors of the resolution for the very constructive spirit shown in discussions on this item. The EU has met on a number of occasions with representatives of the sponsors, and would like to highlight the spirit of constructive dialogue, respect and understanding in these meetings. We particularly welcome this approach and we hope that it sends a positive signal for future discussions on sensitive issues.
Faced with a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and economic situation on the ground, urgent action is required.
The European Union would like to stress the need for a coordinated international response to the worsening humanitarian, economic and financial situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The European Union has established a Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) to channel assistance directly to the Palestinian people, drawn up in consultation with Quartet members, major donors, international financial institutions and partners in the region, including the Palestinian Authority President’s Office. In order to achieve an immediate impact, the mechanism will focus on essential supplies and running costs for social services and health, supply of utilities including fuel, and social allowances.
The European Union invites other donors to provide funding and to consider early and substantial contributions to the international mechanism.
As is well known, the EU remains the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian territories: no one else does more. In an average year, the EU spends around 250 million euros in the West Band and Gaza Strip. In the first 6 months of 2006, we have already spent more than half of that amount. The EU has disbursed the funds much faster this year than it normally does, in response to the worsening conditions on the ground. In particular, we are doing our utmost to contribute to the continuation of essential public services.
In addition to these regular sums, the European Union has recently approved plans to provide a further €50 million in humanitarian aid. This will allow for a more forceful and comprehensive response to the urgent needs of the Palestinians. Areas to be covered include food delivery, healthcare, water/sanitation and protection activities.
The Israeli transfers of Palestinian funds ($50-60 million a month) are greater than any amount individual donors can provide on a regular basis. One of the most effective measures to resolve the current funding crisis would be the urgent resumption of these transfers. Therefore, the European Union urges Israel to resume transfers of withheld Palestinian tax and customs revenues which are essential in averting an even more pressing crisis in the Palestinian territories.
In conclusion, and turning to the wider picture, the EU remains deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation between Israel and the Palestinian authorities, and deplores the loss of civilian life it has brought. This crisis underlines the need for the negotiation of a just and lasting settlement. The EU calls on both parties to demonstrate urgently an active commitment to the search for a negotiated solution. The EU would like to reiterate its conviction that only a political process of negotiation can bring lasting peace to the region and durably improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
Thank you, Mr. President.