Despite a dire economic crisis throughout Europe, the European Parliament (EP) has just decided to increase the budget for aid given to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by €100 million – a 30 percent increase over previous years.
Prior to the budget increase, aid from the EU to the PA stood at about €500 million a year, according to Jordan’s Ma’an News Agency. The European Union budget for 2012 was set at €129.1 billion.
Just five days later, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal hailed a new Palestinian “partnership” after talks in Cairo to implement reconciliation between the two factions.
“We want to reassure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on all things do to with the Palestinian nation,” Mashaal said. “There are no more differences between us now,” Abbas added. “We have agreed to work as partnership with shared responsibility.” A major feud between Hamas and Fatah erupted in 2007, after Hamas violently overthrew the Fatah government in Gaza and established control, sweeping local elections.
The EU is the single largest financer of the PA. It has formally provided aid to the Palestinians since 1971, when the European Community began funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), and organization which was originally established to assist displaced persons “whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948, and 1967 conflicts”. Between 1994 – the year of the signing of the Oslo Accords – and 2009, the EU has donated €4.26 billion to the Palestinian Authority.
The United Kingdom’s share in the increase in funding to the PA will be just under €150 million over 3 years, according to Ma’an.