BRUSSELS (Mar. 8)
The European Community has decided to double its aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the next two years, it was reported here Thursday.
The E.C., which is providing $6.6 million in 1990, will increase the amount to $13.2 million a year in both 1991 and 1992.
Sources at the European Commission, the executive body of the E.C., said the money would go for welfare and education, and was aimed at “preserving the collective future of the Palestinian people by supporting their economic and social development.”
The E.C. has contributed $185 million to Palestinians in the territories since 1971, much of it channeled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
“What we want is to use this financial aid to improve the living standards of the Palestinians,” an E.C. official said.
The doubling of the E.C.’s endowment to the Palestinians in the Israeli-administered territories is based on the recent report of the E.C.’s commissioner for Mediterranean affairs, Abel Matutes.
It was submitted to the E.C. Council of Ministers, which met here this week under its current chairman, Foreign Minister Gerard Collins of Ireland.
The E.C. at the same time is pressing Israel to facilitate the transfer of funds to non-governmental relief agencies in the administered territories.
But legislation is pending in the Knesset to impose more restrictive rules for the transfer of money, to keep it out of the hands of intifada activists.
Another area of conflict between Israel and the E.C. has to do with the direct export of Palestinian agricultural produce from the territories to E.C. member nations.
The E.C. prevailed on Israel last year to allow Palestinian producers to export fruits and vegetables to Europe under their own label, bypassing Israel’s official export agencies.
Now the European Commission wants Israel to scrap import duties on goods financed by the E.C. or any of its member states which are shipped to the territories.
According to E.C. sources, the direct Palestinian exports, which got off to a poor start, are improving with experience.
The seasonal Palestinian citrus exports rose from 2,000 tons last year to 5,000 tons this year.