Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner outlines Annual Policy
Strategy to European Parliament
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, outlined her Annual Policy Strategy to the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on 11 April. She concluded her statement with remarks on the Middle East, where she said that despite a difficult 2006, “the Commission is committed to reduce the suffering in the area and to advance the peace process.” She said the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) had so far delivered aid to over 140,000 families and had improved access by 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip to water, basic health care and sanitation.
However, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner did not expect the situation to improve as long as the Israeli government continued to block the transfer of some $700 million in tax and customs revenues. She said the Quartet had therefore agreed to continue the TIM, which she hoped the European Parliament would support for additional funding in 2007 and for the 2008 budget.
Mrs Ferrero-Waldner reported that this had been one of the subjects discussed with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad earlier in the day. “He confirmed to me that the TIM is absolutely necessary and must continue. But he also stressed that the Palestinian economy will need more than a stabilization of finances to regain its momentum,” she said.
The Commissioner cited the World Bank’s conclusion that easing traffic to and from Gaza and the West Bank is decisive for economic development. “We will therefore continue to insist on the proper implementation of the traffic and access agreement.” She also reported that EU support for the Rafah crossroads would be increased and raised the possibility of contributing to the improvement of the Karni crossroads, which she described as “an economic lifeline for the Gaza Strip.”
Regarding the political dimension, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner welcomed support by the German Presidency for the revival of the Quartet. She also welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s declaration of Israel’s readiness to meet with the Quartet as well as with Arab countries in a regional peace conference. She raised the possibility of the next Quartet meeting being held together with the parties and Arab partners, building on the results of the Riyadh summit and “developing a political perspective on which the parties could concentrate.” “At the same time, public support for a return to the negotiating table could thereby be mobilized,” she added. “That’s why we must tackle the difficult problems now and not push them off.”
Mrs Ferrero-Waldner repeated the EU’s position that the new Palestinian government must be judged by its actions. “While we continue our emergency support for the Palestinians, we should already be thinking about how best to return to our long-range objective, creating a sustainable Palestinian state.” While admitting that long-term political strategies for the coming months are “an almost impossible objective,” she was optimistic about the prospects for a two-state solution and a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
The Middle East will be one of the subjects Mrs Ferrero Waldner discusses during a visit to UN Headquarters in New York on 13 April for meetings with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe.