EU calls for additional support for new Palestinian reform plan

MAJOR donors committed to stepping up support to the Palestinian Authority as its new prime minister presented a reform plan to improve the situation in the territories hit by the Israel-Hamas war.

The European Union, already the largest donor, has to do more, Josep Borrell, the EU’s top foreign affairs official, said ahead of the meeting, which took place on Sunday. 

“I call on donors to increase the support for your efforts to implement the necessary reforms, including the macro-financial and democratic renewal and strengthening of the rule of law,” Borrell told Palestinian premier Mohammad Mustafa, who took office in March. 

The ministerial meeting, hosted by Borrell and chaired by Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s foreign minister, came as international pressure is building on Israel to halt its offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Operations continued this weekend in spite of a ruling from the International Court of Justice on Friday. 

Last week, European countries including Norway, Ireland and Spain moved to recognize a Palestinian state, triggering a diplomatic row with Tel Aviv.

The donors were planning to discuss the Palestinian Authority how the international community can best support the government’s reform agenda, as well as the strengthening of Palestinian institutions and their capacity.

Mustafa, 69, told reporters that the Palestinian Authority’s priorities are to support the people in Gaza and speed up a cease-fire. Additionally, Mustafa wants to improve the performance of their institutions to pave the way to statehood and stabilize their economic and financial situation. 

Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister José Manuel Albares said Sunday that a cease-fire is needed to avoid an “humanitarian catastrophe of bigger proportions” in Rafah and the entire Gaza strip. Spain stands by its decision to recognize Palestinian statehood, Albares told reporters. 

Eide said Israel must transfer the money collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority from donors to their accounts.

EU foreign affairs ministers will meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss efforts to stop Israel’s operations in Rafah and plans for a peace conference. 

They’re expected to be joined by foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, as well as the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.

Recent co-ordinated moves by European nations to recognize Palestine underscores how Israel’s war against Hamas is focusing global attention on the issue of statehood. 

More than 140 nations already recognize a Palestinian state, but only a few in Europe, including Hungary and Sweden. The US, Israel’s most important ally, backs a two-state solution but says it can only come about through negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. –BLOOMBERG