The European Commission’s decision to unilaterally announce the end of European Union aid to Palestine risked “undermining the democratic process”, an MEP with links to the Irish Government has said.
Billy Kelleher, a member of Ireland’s ruling Fianna Fáil party, criticised the move that came after Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7. It was later abandoned by the EC amid uproar from Ireland, along with Spain, Portugal and Luxembourg.
Speaking in the Brussels Signal studio, Kelleher described the announcement to cut aid made by Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi on October 9, as being a “knee-jerk reaction”.
“My view is that it was badly thought out, if it was thought out at all,” he told Head of News Justin Stares.
He added that the EC should not be making declarations of such a magnitude without consulting national governments, claiming that it is not within the body’s competency to do so.
“That one individual Commissioner could unilaterally make that announcement [on Palestine], in my view, is undermining the democratic process of the European Union, and … conferring too much power on an individual or even on the collective commission itself,” he said.
The European Union has abandoned plans to stop sending aid to Palestine after a backlash within the bloc. https://t.co/tzjlakTPhp
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 10, 2023
Kelleher also expressed sympathy with those living in Palestine, saying that while the EU should be “conscious of the right of Israel to defend itself”, civilians in Gaza should not pay the price of terror attacks.
“Let’s be under no illusions the Palestinian people are a persecuted people as well … they have been corralled into certain areas like the Gaza Strip,” he said, decrying the increasing number of “illegal settlements” set up by Israel in the West Bank.
He added that abuse of the region’s civilians showed a need for the international recognition of Palestine as an independent nation-state.
“Israel sort of has this ability just to ignore international law, ignore international opinion and do as it wants against the Palestinian people,” he said. Recognising the area as an independent country, he argued, would help solve the problem.
Such a view appears to be in keeping with Ireland’s foreign policy. Deputy Prime Minister Micheál Martin, the leader of Fianna Fáil, has previously suggested that the government could push for the entire EU to recognise Palestine.
“If we join forces and collectively recognise the state of Palestine, [we] would be far more impactful than one country going it alone,” Martin said earlier this year.
The full interview with Mr Kelleher will be available on the Brussels Signal website and YouTube Channel shortly.
Ireland’s Government is considering a push to get EU Member States to recognise Palestine and may even “go solo” over the issue. https://t.co/aOvWS8BeWY
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) July 7, 2023