European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS


Next question please! Borrell sidesteps divisive EU Hamas sanctions queries


The European Commission has effectively ducked tough questions on further European Union measures against Hamas.

Flemish MEP Assita Kanko asked the EC in a written question if it was considering new sanctions against the terrorist organisation and its affiliates.

In response, de-facto EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell avoided giving any concrete answer.

Kanko asked the EC if it could say whether “the ban on … support to Hamas” was being “adequately enforced” and “whether new sanctions against Hamas and associated individuals and entities will be proposed?”

On behalf of the EC, Borrell wrote that it was up to the Member States to implement and enforce the EU’s anti-terrorist measures, not the EC.

He then proceeded to outline the lengthy process by which individuals or groups can be sanctioned. He declined to mention if any new sanctions would be proposed regarding Hamas.

The debate comes as the EU and many of its Member States face internal divisions over what stance to take regarding the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On the EU level, leaders of the bloc have found themselves at odds over the conflict.

Following the initial attack by Hamas terrorists on October 7, EC President Ursula von der Leyen swung hard against Hamas and the Palestinian side, lighting up the EC headquarters with an Israeli flag illustration.

She was echoed by the Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi who unilaterally announced the EU was cutting aid to the Palestinian territories and authorities.

Both were criticised by national governments such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal, which historically have sympathised with the Palestinian cause.

Borrell has been outspoken in defending EU aid to Palestine. He has also decried the deaths of the Palestinian civilians killed as Israel continues to invade the densely populated Gaza Strip, home to some 2 million.

Borrell also declined to make any commitments on countering impartiality and anti-Semitism in international organisations, following questions  from Italian MEP Anna Bonfrisco.

Bonfrisco cited the example of the UN’s Palestinian rapporteur Francesca Albanese, who is accused of siding with Palestine in her official role, a violation of UN rules, after making statements calling Israel an “apartheid regime” and likening it to “a military dictatorship”.

Since the EU’s official strategy to counter anti-Semitism includes commitments to action in international organisations, Bonfrisco asked if the EC would contemplate any action on that level.

Borrell wrote that the EC knew nothing of the “allegations mentioned” and thus did not wish to comment on the UN’s “internal staff matters”.