Yedioth Ahronoth said the European delegation had hoped to evaluate the prisoners’ conditions.
The paper reported that Elmar Brok, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament, had asked Israel’s ambassador to the EU to arrange a visit for the delegation.
But Lieberman responded by saying Israel would only allow such a visit if the EU would let an Israeli delegation visit prisons in Europe.
The report cited sources inside Israel’s foreign affairs ministry that the European request had been made in coordination Palestinian and international activists working to highlight the poor conditions inside Israeli prisons.
The news came one day after Israel refused to allow Palestinian refugees from Syria to return to the Palestinians territories, according to Palestinian Authority official cited by Ma’an news agency.
Fatah central committee member Mohammed Ishtayyeh told diplomats at a meeting organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation – a group affiliated with Germany’s Green Party – that they have been trying to help Palestinians in Syria escape the three-year-long war, but Israeli officials have rejected their pleas.
Around 1,500 Palestinian were killed during the Syria conflict, and 250,000 others have been forced to leave their homes, according to Ma’an.
US lawmakers are already threatening Russia with economic sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine. Trade, business, investment, and G8 membership closely link the Russian, American and European economies.
While the West is considering going down the ‘sanction road’, here’s a look at what’s at stake for the markets.
In terms of billions of dollars, trade is higher between Russia and the EU, but the US remains Europe’s biggest export market.
Net trade between Russia and the US was $38.1 billion in 2013, according to US Chamber of Commerce data. The US exported $11.26 billion to Russia, and imported $26.96 billion worth of goods.
Russia exports more than $19 billion of oil and petroleum products to the United States, as well as $1 billion in fertilizer products, according to Chamber of Commerce data.
“Is Russia going to be cut off from the world? That is very unlikely given what Russia provides to the world, which are oil, gas, raw materials,” Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia told Reuters.
Russia is very dependent on trade with the EU, as member states account for about 50 percent of total Russian imports and exports. In 2012, trade between the two neighbors reached €123 billion.
One of Russia’s most valuable exports to Europe is something factories and households run on every day: natural gas. Europe imports one-third of its natural gas from Russia, with Germany being the biggest client importing nearly 30 billion euro annually. In 2012, 75 percent of all European imports from Russia were energy.
Many countries in Europe have strategic partnerships with Russia’s state-owned gas giants, Rosneft and Gazprom.
According to Eurostat data, Russia accounts for 7 percent of total imports and 12 percent of total exports in the 28 European Union bloc, making it the regions third most important trading partner, behind the USA and China.
US companies with big Russia presence
Several of America’ biggest companies- Boeing, Cargill, Ford, General Motors, ExxonMobil, to name a few- all have a huge presence in the Russian market.
Boeing’s investment in Russia is deep, as the aerospace carrier sources a considerable amount of steel, titanium, and aircraft parts from Russian companies. Boeing receives about 35 percent of its titanium from state-owned, Rostec. In 2013, Boeing’s deliveries to Russian carriers were valued at $2.1 billion, and the company plans to spend $27 billion in Russia, Bloomberg reports.
“We are watching developments closely to determine what impact, if any, there may be to our ongoing business and partnerships in the region,” Doug Alder, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, told Bloomberg by email.
Last year, Russia was a $11.2 billion market for the US, with heavy trade in automobiles and aircrafts, according to Commerce Department data.
US automakers have a high exposure to Russian markets, so are closely watching US economic actions against Russia. Ford has sold over 1 million automobiles in Russia, and in 2013, sold 105,000 cars. GM, which has a 9 percent market share, sold 258,000. Both companies have shifted production plants from Europe to Russia, which is set to become Europe’s biggest car market by 2016.
ExxonMobil has partnered with Rosneft in exploring the Bazhenov oil field in Western Siberia, a deal that could be worth up to $500 billion. ExxonMobil is planning to build a $15 billion LNG terminal project in the Bazhenov field, and also has joint venture projects set up to explore Black Sea reserves.
Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on Europe, said the sanctions could be extended to Russia’s banks. Russia’s two largest state banks are Sberbank, Europe’s third largest, and VTB. Both banks have a strong industry presence in London, which has indicated it isn’t moving towards the sanctions. A leaked document from Downing Street shows that the UK government doesn’t plan to follow America-led asset freezes or trade restrictions, but are mulling over visa restrictions and travel bans on key Russian politicians.
By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | March 6, 2014
Legally, Washington and its European allies haven’t a leg to stand on. Both can be rightly accused of violating international law from their gross interference in Ukrainian sovereign affairs – from the instigation of violent street protests that led to the sacking of an elected president and government, to the subsequent climate of lawlessness and fear sweeping across Ukraine and felt in particular by the majority Russian ethnic population in the east and south of the country.
The latest revelations that killings in Kiev’s Maidan Square among protesters and police were covertly carried out by snipers working for the Western-backed agitators are further proof that a coup d’état was orchestrated. A leaked phone call between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Paet, dated February 25, indicates that snipers were used as provocateurs during the demonstrations, with the intention of heightening violence and blaming it on the government of President Viktor Yanukovych.
In the phone call, reported by Russia Today, Paet is heard to say: «There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new [Western-backed] coalition».
Ashton replied: «I think we do want to investigate. I mean, I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh».
The evidence for Western-sponsored subversion in Ukraine is so glaring – from the parade of American and European politicians over the past four months whipping up protesters in Kiev, to documented infiltration of civic organizations by the CIA, USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Adenauer Foundation, among others, to their own words of admission from the likes of State Department official Victoria Nuland on the desired formation of a new governing administration in Kiev – that in order to distract from this mountain of damning evidence, the Western governments and their servile media are trying to shift the terrain of discourse away from the panoramic obvious.
The latest revelation of snipers used as provocateurs adds a new sinister twist.
However, against all the evidence, it is not the West that is in violation over Ukraine; it is Russia – so they claim.
More than this, the Western leaders and media have gone into hysterical mode, accusing Russia of «brazen aggression» and «bringing the region to the brink of war». Ironically, given the astounding denial of reality by the West, it is now turning around and accusing Russia of peddling propaganda over recent events in Ukraine. One France 24 headline read: «The fanciful claims of Russian propaganda».
Never mind fanciful claims, how about just some hard facts – facts that Western media are in abject denial of?
Apart from the above litany of outrageous Western interference in Ukrainian politics, the fact is that President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a violent putsch at the end of last month.
Yanukovych was elected in 2010; and in a constitutional democracy his removal from office requires a vote by the electorate, not the diktats of a bunch of gun-wielding paramilitaries. We may not have liked Yanukovych’s alleged authoritarian style of governance or accusations of cronyism, but the only legal way to correct that would have been for an orderly constitutional process of elections or some other form of due process.
Yanukovych signed a national unity deal with political opponents on February 21, which European Union ministers had been involved in brokering. But his opponents immediately trashed the deal with threats of violence unless Yanukovych stood down.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is therefore correct when he told a press conference this week that what has happened in Kiev is «an unconstitutional coup» and «an armed seizure of power».
Legally speaking, and even under the terms of the EU-brokered national unity accord signed on February 21, Viktor Yanukovych is still the lawful president of Ukraine. When Yanukovych subsequently sent a formal letter to Putin requesting military assistance in the light of unconstitutional and violent upheaval, the Russian Federation had a legal and moral mandate to enter into Ukrainian territory.
The differing responses to the February 21 «event» are instructive. Both Washington and Brussels immediately recognized the new office holders in Kiev as the «legitimate government» of Ukraine with its self-declared president Oleksandr Torchynov and prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The new cabinet, comprising members of the fascist Svoboda party who had been previously waging street war, was also conferred with official Western recognition. The Western media have since gone on to use euphemisms like Kiev’s «fledgling government».
A more accurate definition of the new administration in Kiev is an unelected, self-imposed junta. But the violent, unconstitutional means of taking political power has not stopped British foreign secretary William Hague coming to Kiev this week, followed by US secretary of state John Kerry, to shake hands with the junta. Brussels also invited the mob rulers in Kiev to a ministerial summit this week.
By contrast, Russia is calling for a return to the national unity deal signed on February 21 – a deal which recognizes Yanukovych as the president in office until mutually agreed constitutional reforms are worked out and mandated by the entire electorate of Ukraine – as the legal starting point for any future political settlement. This is the most reasonable and constitutionally legal way forward. Let the people decide whom they want in government by voting, that is by democracy, which, pointedly, Western leaders do not seem able or willing to countenance. The latter prefer imposing governance by force according to their diktat because the real agenda is the economic pillaging of Ukraine by Western capital, an outcome that the Ukrainian people would not vote for if they truly had a democratic choice in the matter.
Given the self-publicized threats of aggression towards ethnic Russians in Ukraine and other perceived political opponents issued by Svoboda and its Right Sector paramilitaries, together with documented acts of recent violence in Kiev, it is was eminently legal and appropriate that Moscow embarked on defensive security measures in Ukraine. Securing military bases and a majority Russian-speaking population in the autonomous southern republic of Crimea this week – at the written requests of President Yanukovych and the Crimean regional prime minister Sergei Aksyonov, as well as under the legal terms of a long-standing bilateral agreement with Ukraine – all that gives Moscow an irrefutable mandate to do so.
Yet, with frothing hysteria, the Western governments and their media have turned reality upside down. There is not a mention of the unlawful Western interference and subversion in the Ukraine or of its hand-in-fist association with neo-Nazi street mobs in executing a violent putsch in Kiev. US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power brazenly denied reality earlier this week when she accused Moscow of citing «imaginary threats» in Ukraine. The bitter irony of that is that Samantha Power is one of the cheerleaders for the so-called «responsibility to protect» which has given her country the fictitious cover to illegally intervene and militarily overthrow governments in former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and anywhere else the US deems desirable for regime change.
In a feat of sheer doublethink, the West has accused Russia of «illegal invasion» in Ukraine and of using «pretexts for acts of aggression». This hysterical rhetoric is being used to cover up the West’s own glaring transgressions in Ukraine and to shift the blame for the turmoil.
Unabashed by its unequivocal involvement in engineering regime change in Ukraine, American and European leaders are demanding that Russia withdraw troops from Crimea or face sanctions. Washington’s top diplomat John Kerry said the US would isolate Russia «economically, politically and diplomatically» if it did not reverse security measures, or as Kerry put it «aggression».
Meanwhile, there is not a scintilla of indication that the Americans and Europeans have any intention of reversing their unlawful interference in Ukraine. Far from it, Kerry on his visit to the junta in Kiev this week said that the US was offering $1 billion in loan guarantees. The New York Times explained: «The purpose of the loan guarantees is to support Ukraine’s efforts to integrate with the West».
European Union ministers this week somehow found reserves of €11 billion for the new «Western friendly» administration in Kiev – against the backdrop of millions of EU citizens suffering from unemployment and deprivation. The International Monetary Fund is also drawing up a lure (loan) of $2 billion.
With pro-Western, pro-capitalist Yatsenyuk now at the helm in Kiev (as Nuland prescribed), Ukraine is being steered inexorably into debt bondage by the West. This bondage, facilitated by an unelected junta, will entail an austerity assault on Ukrainian workers, beginning with swingeing cuts in public spending, wages and subsidies on fuel. It will also lead to privatization of Ukrainian oil and gas industries and the full take over of other prodigious Ukrainian natural resources, such as its wheat agriculture, by Western capital. Yatsenyuk, who talks with pride about being willing to commit political suicide for the sake of pro-Western reforms, that is Western subjugation, is exactly the kind of ideologue the West want and need in Kiev, as Nuland duly recognized.
Interestingly, this week the new Ukrainian ambassador to Belarus, Mykhailo Yeshel, admitted in a media interview that loans (lures) from Washington were being offered on condition of the Ukraine permitting the deployment of American missile systems on its territory – right on the border with Russia.
The emerging picture is clear. Despite all the hysterical nonsense being spouted by Western leaders and their media propaganda machine, demanding Russia to «back off» from Ukraine, the Western regime-change operation in that country is not just being consolidated – it is being ramped up.
What Do Ukrainians Really Want?
When Ukraine is the topic, the major U.S. media outlets agree: “Europe and the United States have made a priority of fostering democracy in the former Soviet republics,” David M. Herszenhorn wrote in the New York Times. The Washington Post asserted that Ukraine is “a country that has been struggling to become a genuine democracy” with help from Western powers, who keep it “from becoming an autocratic Kremlin colony, like neighboring Belarus.” “Ukraine is the crossroads between a free and an authoritarian Europe,” the Wall Street Journal concurred, while Yale professor Timothy Snyder urged, in a CNN piece, Europe and America to back the Ukrainian protesters—“a chance to support democracy,” he emphasized. Marvelous. But in the real world, Ukrainian democracy is not merely something Washington has failed to support, but is actually incompatible with U.S. governmental aims.
U.S. officials are quite open about their opposition to Ukrainian self-determination and well-aware how unpopular Washington’s preferred policies are. Nearly a decade ago, for example, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Europe met for a hearing on “Ukraine’s Future and U.S. Interests.” Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE) opened the session, noting that “a recent survey conducted by a center for economic and political research suggests that up to 40 percent of Ukrainians believe that relations with Russia should be a priority.” Meanwhile, “28 percent gave preference to the EU,” and “2 percent said that relations with the U.S. should be a foreign policy priority. Another survey suggested that almost two-thirds of the population would consider supporting a political union with Russia,” Bereuter concluded. “So,” he went on, “I think that United States policy must remain focused” on incorporating Ukraine “into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.” Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) spoke next, reiterating that U.S. policy should “further Ukraine’s integration in Euro-Atlantic institutions;” Steven Pifer, the former Ambassador to Ukraine, drove the point home, outlining “the United States Government’s vision for Ukraine”: “increasingly close ties to Europe and Euro-Atlantic institutions.” This vision persisted over the following decade. The Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson, speaking before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on European Affairs—the topic was “Ukraine at a Crossroads”—in February 2012, explained that “Ukraine’s genuine European integration” remained a major objective.
And recent commentary and news coverage depicts European integration as something most Ukrainians desire. In early February, Secretary of State Kerry, at the Munich Security Conference, remarked that Ukrainians should be permitted “to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations”—Europe and the U.S. obviously being the partners, integration to be deepened via what the Times’ Herszenhorn referred to as “sweeping political and trade agreements” that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “refused to sign” last November, resulting in “a broken promise between a leader and his citizens,” and then the uprisings. Now Al Jazeera reports that the acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, has “made clear that Kiev’s European integration would be a priority,” thereby giving Ukrainians what we’re told they want.
But British and U.S. governmental studies reveal the Ukrainian public is ambivalent about European integration. Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for example, funded a “scoping study” through the British Embassy in Kyiv a year ago, titled “A blueprint for enhancing understanding of and support for the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement [AA] including DCFTA [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area] in Ukraine.” The AA was one of the key “sweeping political and trade agreements” Yanukovych refused to sign. British officials, in their report, stressed that “support for the AA is not overwhelming amongst the population at large,” observing that “opinion polls show that about 30% of respondents are in favour of European integration, 30% for the Customs Union [Moscow-led integration], and about 30% are undecided.” This bleak situation called for a propaganda offensive, or “a national public awareness ‘Campaign of Arguments,’” as the British dubbed it, which was to “be aimed at the general public as its primary target audience.” British advisers urged PR teams “to formulate advertising slogans, global and targeted messages,” and to play up “the European civilizational model” and other benefits the AA allegedly would bring. This “civilizational model” today entails “massive attacks on public services, wages, pensions, trade unions, and social rights” under imposed “draconian austerity policies,” Asbjørn Wahl wrote in January’s Monthly Review—a reality the British indoctrination scheme’s outline studiously avoided, it’s hardly worth mentioning.
The propaganda barrage may have been successful to some extent. But as the year progressed, the U.S. government had a hard time finding evidence of overwhelming Ukrainian support for European integration. The International Republican Institute (IRI), for example, polled Ukrainians last September: “If Ukraine was able to enter only one international economic union, with whom should it be?” Forty-two percent of respondents chose the EU, while 37% preferred the Russian Customs Union. IRI then asked, “How would you evaluate your attitude towards the following entities?” Fifty percent of respondents felt “warm” towards Russia; 41% felt “warm” towards Europe—and just 26% were fond of the U.S. IRI figures resembled those USAID published in a December 2013 report. Its authors found it “interesting to note that Ukrainians are split on whether the country should join the European Union or the Customs Union. Thirty-seven percent would like Ukraine to take steps to join the European Union, 33% prefer the Customs Union and 15% say Ukraine should join neither of these blocs.” Furthermore, “34% say that Ukraine should have closer economic relations with Russia, 35% say it should have closer economic relations with Europe and 17% say it should have good relations with both.” A Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll reinforced these findings: “Ukraine is split practically 50/50 over the accession to the European Union or the Customs Union,” Interfax-Ukraine summarized the study’s conclusions.
Reviewing this data forces us to ask: Who is Washington’s chief enemy in Ukraine? Is it Russia, bent on killing Ukraine’s budding democracy? Is it the tyrant Yanukovych? The U.S. policy record points to a different conclusion, one a Johns Hopkins Center for Transatlantic Relations study—included in the official transcription of the Senate’s 2012 “Ukraine at a Crossroads” hearing—discusses in the context of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership. “The main obstacle” to Ukraine’s joining the organization “is not Russian opposition,” its authors emphasized, “but low public support for membership in Ukraine itself.” Again: on this and other issues, the Ukrainian people are “the main obstacle” to U.S. foreign policy aims. We should bear this fact in mind as the crisis deepens in Eastern Europe.
Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.
“Call It Democracy”
Padded with power here they come
International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor
Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom
Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament -
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called “developed” nations’
Idolatry of ideology
North South East West
Kill the best and buy the rest
It’s just spend a buck to make a buck
You don’t really give a flying fuck
About the people in misery
IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt
See the paid-off local bottom feeders
Passing themselves off as leaders
Kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
Open for business like a cheap bordello
And they call it democracy
See the loaded eyes of the children too
Trying to make the best of it the way kids do
One day you’re going to rise from your habitual feast
To find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
They call the revolution
IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt
Threats of sanctions against the Ukrainian government look like blackmail, and a demand for early elections is a way to force Kiev towards the EU, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. The sanctions will only encourage extremists, he added.
Lavrov on Thursday blasted the sanctions against Ukraine, some of which have already been imposed by the US, and are now being eyed by the EU, as “double standards.” Such actions will only encourage extremists to continue violence in the country, he said.
“The [Ukrainian] opposition cannot or does not want to dissociate itself from extremists. The US lays all the blame on the Ukrainian government – this is a double standard,” Lavrov said.
“The EU is also trying to discuss the imposing of sanctions, at the same time there are uninvited missions coming to Ukraine. Such actions resemble blackmail,” the minister said.
Not only are such threats “inappropriate,” but also will aggravate the conflict in Ukraine, Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, has said.
There is “no doubt” there is a “plain coup attempt” going on in Ukraine, with armed rioters widely using firearms, the spokesman added.
“We strongly condemn the actions of radicals and extremists, who are mostly responsible for violence and bloody riots. Serious responsibility also lies with the opposition, who have been unable to fulfill the agreements reached with the government,” Lukashevich said.
The so-called Maidan leaders must “immediately stop bloodshed” and “continue seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis without threats or ultimatums,” he stressed.
Moscow is not interfering in the internal conflict in Ukraine, Lukashevich said, adding that there are plenty of “false flag reports,” such as Russian riot police taking part in quelling the riots, which are distributed over social networks and by “some politicians.”
“As regards to the accusations of Russia, there is a proverb saying that guilty mind is never at ease. We are deeply concerned with what is happening and how the Western states are commenting on it and are trying to affect it. In Western media, the situation is presented in an extremely perverted way, some simple mantras are hammered into heads like that the West is calling on the government to keep its hands off Maidan,” Lavrov said.
However, the Western politicians and media prefer not to go into detail on what is happening on Maidan.
“Police pelted with Molotov cocktails, the killings, the seizure of buildings – none of that is being commented on or explained,” the minister said.
The individual sanctions that the US and the EU are trying to impose are “absolutely illegitimate” from the point of view of the international law, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The only legitimate sanctions can be imposed by the UN Security Council, the ministry stressed.
JERUSALEM — The European Union has long been one of the most reliable foreign sources of humanitarian, economic and political aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), providing 426 million euros ($575 million) in 2013 alone.
In 2011, overall overseas development aid to the OPT was worth $2.5 billion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Much of this aid to the Palestinian people is focused on a single long-term objective, according to EU officials — the building up of the institutions of a future democratic, independent and viable Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.
But with limited progress so far in the current US-brokered peace talks and the wider aim of the realization of a Palestinian state, some in the more austerity-minded EU are starting to wonder if the aid is being well spent, when humanitarian crises in Syria and Mali are in need of greater funds.
“By now there is no Palestinian state. The point is: what are we funding here? Are we helping Israel to maintain the occupation, or are we actually helping Palestinians to build independence?” Caroline du Plessix, a French political scientist specialized on EU policy towards the two-state-solution, told IRIN.
“EU member states are today much more aware than before that their aid has not made possible the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” she said, adding: “The EU is trying to figure out what the best strategy may be. Member states need to show that their policy is reaching its ends and is effective. But if the main solution still is the two-state-solution and we are not really going in that direction, this policy is not sustainable and cannot go on for ever.”
Carrot and stick
A substantial reduction in EU aid seems unlikely at the moment. Such a move would have dramatic consequences for the Palestinian economy and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families.
“There will be a price to pay if these negotiations falter,” the EU’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, said in late January. In December 2013, an EU official was cited in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that the EU may cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if peace talks fail, while “some people suggested giving the money to other countries, like Syria, Mali and other places around the world.”
On the other hand, EU foreign ministers are making unprecedented offers, setting out a very substantial set of incentives designed to encourage both parties to finalize a peace agreement.
“These incentives aim at boosting prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians by increasing access to European markets, facilitating trade and investment and deepening business and cultural ties,” EU-representative John Gatt-Rutter told IRIN, adding: “Therefore, at this stage our approach is one of encouraging both parties to seize this unique opportunity provided by the peace negotiations.”
“In spite of donor fatigue in Europe we will not see more than a limited gradual reduction — say 10 percent a year — in European aid if negotiations fail because European leaders do not want to trigger major instability or a humanitarian crisis,” Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, told IRIN.
Building the state to come
Of the 426 million euros provided by the EU to Palestinians in 2013, 168 million was Direct Financial Support to the PA under the so-called PEGASE-mechanism.
PEGASE helps the PA to meet its recurrent expenses through paying salaries, pensions and social allowances to people in extreme poverty, and through supporting essential public services and revitalizing the private sector through policy reforms, institution-building and strengthening the relations between Palestinian enterprises and European counterparts.
The funds are transferred directly to individual beneficiaries like 55-year-old Nabila from the Qaddura refugee camp. “I get 750 shekels ($210) every three months, have a disabled son, and my husband died 10 years ago. How can I move on?” she told IRIN at the Ramallah district office of the PA’s Ministry of Social Affairs.
“There is poverty and we get tired of this situation,” she said, adding though that restrictions on movement (caused, for example, by the Barrier and numerous Israeli checkpoints allegedly set up for security reasons) highlighted a greater problem that aid would never solve.
“How do you want to solve this problem? Why do we have to be in this miserable situation?”
In addition to the direct financial support, humanitarian aid is provided through the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), which spent 35 million euros in 2013 on areas such as humanitarian coordination, legal assistance and emergency response to demolitions and evictions.
Propping up the status quo
EU aid faces the same challenges as non-governmental aid groups have faced — that by providing support they may inadvertently be playing a political role by helping prop up the status quo, giving life-support services that should normally be provided by Israel, as the occupying power.
“EU funding is strategic. Its main aim is to prevent instability. It is thus scared of the PA’s breakdown,” said Caroline Du Plessix.
For Sami Abu Roza, former economic policy adviser to the Palestinian president, this system of dependency has a bitter political aftertaste.
“If you take away the good intention behind the money, aid is a substitute for not having real remedies,” he told IRIN at the PA’s Ministry of Education, where he currently works.
The EU’s approach to solving the conflict, he says, is part of a larger trend he calls “peaceconomics”, the feeding of an illusionary idea that institution-building and economic aid can contribute to real progress, while the actual political causes behind the difficult situation are side-lined and remain unresolved.
Ashraf Azzam sits in the ruins of his house in eastern Gaza City in Jan. 2013 after it was destroyed in an Israeli attack in Nov. 2012. (Ahmed Dalloul/IRIN)
“The EU’s attitude towards Palestinians is patronizing, as if money was the only thing Palestinians needed,” he said, adding: “They are sacrificing real solutions for economic aid, building a smoke screen around the real problems.”
“Palestinians know that any money coming to Palestinians is political. But they also know that the world won’t stop paying for Palestinians under occupation. That’s the strange kind of peace Palestinians live in.”
In an attempt to decrease the political dependence from aid, the Ministry of Education has implemented a new mechanism, the Joint Financing Agreement, which has been running for about three years.
With aid money flowing from the German KfW Development Bank, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Belgium, directly into a pool at the treasury of the PA’s Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education has full ownership of the money and decides how and where it is spent.
“It’s a small path to independence, towards political independence,” Abu Roza said.
But for one senior official in the Ministry, who asked to remain anonymous, the notion of independence remains unreal.
“We don’t have control of our own borders, no taxation, and all of Area C is under Israel’s control. What economic independence are we speaking of?” he said, adding that the PA was not created to become a social entity providing salaries and services to Palestinians. “Its aim was political, and so are our problems.”
‘Aid has not helped to fulfill Palestinians dreams’
Some anomalies in the EU’s funding to the PA emerged recently in a report of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), which criticized the EU’s paying of salaries to Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip “who no longer work.” The report suggested financial assistance “be discontinued and redirected to the West Bank.” Hamas, which took control [won elections] of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is classified by the EU as a terrorist group.
So the EU continues to support the former PA structure in Gaza with salary payments even though the PA no longer has any control: The political cost of stopping funding is seen as too great.
From 2008 to 2012, the average number of civil servants and pensioners whose salaries were at least partly paid by the EU rose from 75,502 to 84,320, about half of the PA’s 170,000 civil servants and pensioners.
During the same period, the average monthly PA wage bill for EU-beneficiaries rose from 45.1 million euros to 62.9 million euros, an increase of 39 percent.
But at the same time, contributions to PEGASE for Civil Servants and Pensioners fell from 21.3 million euros (47 percent of total pay to eligible beneficiaries) in 2008 to 10.4 million euros (16 percent) in 2012, mainly due to reductions in contributions from donors, such as Spain.
These pressures point to a new funding environment in which the PA is finding it increasingly difficult to pay salaries and pensions on time.
The UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) faces similar challenges. This year it has a deficit of $65 million in its core budget and struggles with declining international funding. The EU is UNRWA’s largest donor.
“Aid has not helped to fulfill Palestinians dreams, nor did it lead to sustainable development. Independence is today further away than 20 years ago,” Alaa Tartir, program director of the Palestinian Policy Network, told IRIN.
Despite the contradictions in EU aid policy, it is clear that without EU aid the humanitarian situation in OPT would worsen significantly.
“If we reach a condition where there is no more aid for PA employees, who will fill this gap? This will have a severe humanitarian impact,” said Tommaso Fabri, head of the Jerusalem office of Doctors Without Borders.
One beneficiary of the EU’s direct assistance to the PA is 49-year-old Said Samara, a teacher at the Secondary Boarding School in Ramallah.
“As a teacher, I hope that this aid will continue. But as a teacher, and for my students, I also need some hope for an independent Palestinian country,” he said.
A member of the ruling faction in the European Parliament has come up with an initiative to impose sanctions against Russia that he said was supporting Ukraine’s regime. Russia has been in a waiting stance ever since the escalation on Tuesday, when Ukraine’s capital Kiev descended into more chaos.
This came today from Poland’s MEP Jacek Sariush-Volsky of the center-right European People’s Party at a press conference in the EU parliament.
However, a spokesperson with the European Commission ruled out the possibility of sanctions against Russia ahead of the EU foreign chiefs’ meeting on February 20.
Conversely, the spokesman said that the 28 foreign policy heads of EU member countries were going to engage in consultations with Russia in order to clear up all controversies that exist between Moscow and Brussels on the possible outcome of an association deal between Ukraine and the EU.
Russia blames ‘extremists’ for Ukraine crisis, suggests attempted coup
Russia has apportioned all blame for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine on the extremists. This is according to President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“The president believes that the ongoing situation in Ukraine is the fault of the extremists,” Mr. Peskov said today.
He added Russia wished that its Ukrainian partners would “ensure the settlement of the situation that has taken shape as soon as possible.”
“Moscow strongly condemns violence of radical elements, who in the breach of all agreements previously reached actually used the implementation of the conditions on amnestying previously detained people and returned to violent actions immediately,” Peskov told reporters.
“Besides, their actions can be treated and are treated in Moscow solely as an attempt at a state coup,” Peskov said. “Together with the seizure of state organizations in various cities of Ukraine, the seizure of law enforcement facilities and attempts to seize arms occurs as well,” he said.
Russia biding its time on Ukraine
Moscow is keeping tabs on Ukraine but will not interfere with the crisis for now, President Putin’s spokesman has said Wednesday. Russia has been in a waiting stance ever since the escalation on Tuesday, when Ukraine’s capital Kiev descended into more chaos as death toll rose to 25 people.
“The Kremlin is closely watching the ongoing situation in Ukraine, and we will definitely speak on it a bit later,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today in an interview with online magazine Slon.
“The idea is not to intervene in the Kiev unrest. We’ve said that many times, the Kremlin will stay true to this stance.”
Militants’ actions in Kiev on Fe 18-19 not spontaneous, but staged – Russian diplomat
Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov believes that militants’ actions on Kiev streets on February 18-19 are not spontaneous, but staged.
The senator noted the common delusion that the so-called Maidan and its battle squad is not stage-managed, it is Cossak outlaws and “national power”. “The very events at Grushevsky Street disproved it: the militants dealt with law enforcers’ attacks too skillfully, refilled armory of shields, casks and clubs, and added cocktail bombs to convert it into napalm. The course of street riots February 18-19 showed that the militants fight in the so-called “Halych format” — it came to gunfire, and there are fatalities on both sides. There is evident organized nature behind the fighting,” Margelov believes.
In addition, he said that “after a fragile truce, the Maidan gains momentum in provinces: in Lvov, Ternopol, Ivano-Frankovsk”. “They not only occupy state offices there, but storm police wards and dismantle Berkut officers,” the Russian senator stated.
Margelov expressed confidence that “debacles and shooting that John Kerry dubbed “fight of the Ukrainian majority for Europe’s democratic future” are fairly staged and managed by experienced specialists in street fighting”. “Klitschko and Yatsenyuk hardly possess such military talents,” he assumed, adding that the job of these politicians is “to compose joint plans with the West to make up an oppositionist government and carry out a constitutional reform, which ought to be followed by western financial aid”.
Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee says it’s early to make any forecasts yet. “It would be a great achievement to stop the street mayhem and start a responsible political dialogue. Still, even this may not consolidate the Ukrainian society. It’s split: I cannot remember a single Ukrainian parliament that hadn’t fistfights,” the senator concluded.
Moscow blames radicals for deadly clashes in Ukraine, EU leaders ponder sanctions against government
Moscow believes the deadly clashes in Kiev were an attempt at a coup by radicalized protesters. EU leaders have quite an opposite view, calling for sanctions against Ukrainian government officials.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry described the violence in Ukraine as an attempt at a coup d’etat and a “brown” revolution, accusing European politicians and institutions of “refusing to admit that all of the responsibility for the actions of radical forces in Ukraine rests with the opposition.”
“The Russian side is demanding the leaders on the streets to stop the violence in their country, immediately resume dialogue with the lawful government without threats and ultimatums,” the statement reads.
The Kremlin has also interpreted the violence in Ukraine as a coup attempt. President Putin’s spokesman said that “from the point of view of the Russian leadership”, all of the responsibility for the bloodshed could be laid at the door of “the extremist forces.”
Twenty-six people were killed overnight in the most violent clashes yet to have occurred between security forces and protesters since the opposition took to the streets of Kiev in November 2013. Ten of the casualties are Ukrainian police officers, who died of gunshot wounds, as did the rest of the victims, the Interior Ministry reported.
It added that up to 700 people were injured, more than 70 of those being policemen.
The Ukrainian Health Ministry officially confirmed that a journalist from the local Vesti newspaper, Vyacheslav Veremey, died in Kiev after a gunshot wound.
The Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior believes the casualties in the clashes could have been killed by the radicals, because the police do not use fire arms.
“Taking into consideration the nature of the dead civilians’ wounds and also the nature of the weapons, which have been confiscated, we can assume that these wounds were inflicted by violent protesters,” a statement at the Ministry’s website says. “Police officers and interior troops do not use fire arms. Law enforcers are only using non-lethal weapons.”
Some of the European leaders have not been convinced and have been quick to lay the blame for the violence on the Ukrainian president. The Swedish Foreign Minister said on Twitter that blood was on Yanukovich’s hands.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague was less emotional, but also accused the government of allowing the bloodshed to happen.
Several EU leaders have already spoken of introducing sanctions against the Ukrainian leadership, who they view as responsible for the crisis.
Germany, which previously refused to back Washington’s calls for sanctions against Ukraine’s government, could soon have a change of heart, according to German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier .
“Whoever is responsible for decisions that lead to bloodshed in the center of Kiev or elsewhere in Ukraine will need to consider that Europe’s previous reluctance for personal sanctions must be rethought,” he said, according to AP.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday he would be pressing European Union leaders to impose sanctions on Ukraine’s government.
“I will today hold talks with the leaders of the biggest EU countries and institutions, and persuade them to impose sanctions – personal and financial,” Tusk told a special session of the Polish parliament, Reuters reports. “I hope that such a stance from Poland will help the EU as a whole in taking fast decisions.”
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has also supported sanctions against the Ukrainian government, according to Itar-Tass.
Earlier, US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt blamed Viktor Yanukovich for the escalation of the crisis.
“From this moment on, the USA holds Yanukovich responsible for everything that happens in Ukraine,” he told the Zerkalo Nedeli newspaper, following a meeting with Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara.
Moscow believes that this accusatory position of the US could have, in fact, contributed to the escalation of violence Kiev has been witnessing, and, holding the president solely responsible for the crisis, is giving carte blanche to extremist radical forces out on the streets.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it considered the crisis “a direct result of the permissive policy exercised by those western politicians and European structures, who from the very beginning turned a blind eye to the aggressive actions of the radical forces in Ukraine.”
At least five anti-government protesters have died and scores of others injured in clashes with police outside the Ukrainian parliament building in central Kiev, opposition sources say.
Five protesters were shot dead near the parliament building during Kiev’s worst clashes for more than three weeks, said Oleh Musiy, a top medic for the protesters.
Reports say over 47 police officers and 150 protesters were also injured in the clashes on Tuesday.
This is while anti-government protesters briefly seized the ruling party headquarters in Kiev on Tuesday.
Violent clashes erupted after opposition lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to pass constitutional changes stripping President Viktor Yanukovych of some of his powers.
Russia said the policies of Western countries have contributed to the latest clashes between pro-EU protesters and police.
The United States and the European Union have traded accusations with Russia, each side blaming the other of interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs by attempting to impose their own choices on the country.
The crisis began late last year after President Yanukovych pulled out of a deal with the EU, which could have paved the way for Kiev to join the bloc.
Yanukovych refused to sign the Association Agreement at the third Eastern Partnership Summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on November 29, 2013, after EU leaders called on Ukraine to allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to travel overseas for medical treatment.
The EU is investing hundreds of millions of taxpayer euros in the development of surveillance drones without political oversight, a report claims. The authors of the document warn the EU is secretly encouraging “the further militarization” of the region.
A report entitled ‘Eurodrones Inc.’ published by rights group Statewatch describes how the EU is channeling taxpayers’ money into surveillance drone projects without their knowledge.
“More than 315 million euro ($430 million) has so far been spent in EU research funding on drone technology or drones geared towards a specific purpose such as policing or border control,” writes the report.
However, the document points out that the research funding is largely “invisible” to the people and parliaments of Europe and lacks the proper political oversight. According to the report this was achieved by a secret budget line that was included in new EU legislation on air traffic control for this year.
The report describes a 20-year roadmap that aims to introduce surveillance drones into EU airspace and highlights that this plan is being shaped by “thinly accountable officials” and representatives of large corporations.
“The EU’s emerging drone policy has come about following years of successful lobbying by defense and security companies and their associates,” said co-author of the report Chris Jones in a statement on Statewatch’s website, adding that these are the same defense and security contractors that have the most to gain.
The drones in question would engage in civilian surveillance activities, such as border patrols and the search for criminals. However, Statewatch is concerned that the convert nature of the program lends itself to the “further militarization” of the European Union.
Calling for “proper democratization” and the opening of public debate on the issue, the report notes the EU turned a blind eye to a European Commission statement in 2012 that declared the development of unmanned surveillance craft should be more transparent.
It recommended the issue be discussed with a number of organizations, including the European Group on Ethics, the LIBE Committee of the European Parliament or the European Agency for Fundamental Rights and Data Protection Supervisor.
“Yet none of these bodies have been involved,” writes the report. “Their absence from policy debates means that many of the conversations the EU should be having about drones – such as what they should and should not be used for, and how to prevent further militarization and the deployment of fully autonomous weaponized drones – have been all but ignored.”
Although the authors of the report do not outwardly criticize research into drones, they do stress the fact that the current program is too “heavily skewed toward the interests of the big defense contractors.”
They argue that this could lead to “unwarranted state surveillance and repression,” as well as enhanced prospects for combat drone research for a global arms race.
“It’s easy to see why people are so excited about drones: there are many positive things they could be used for,” said co-author Ben Hayes. He concluded that given the “clear implications” for civil liberties in the balance, the EU has a “moral and legal obligation” to uphold fundamental rights and the rule of law.
Having long displayed a “habit” of attempting to overthrow democratic governments, the United States now seems focused on destabilizing Ukraine, says a former US official, Press TV reports.
“The control freaks in Washington think that only the decisions that Washington makes and imposes on other sovereign countries are democratic,” wrote Paul Craig Roberts, who is a former assistant secretary of the US Treasury for economic policy, in an article on Press TV’s website on Friday.
“The world has witnessed this American self-righteousness for eons as Washington overthrows one democratic government after the other and imposes its puppet,” Roberts said, adding that “for the moment, Washington is focused on destabilizing Ukraine.”
Ukraine has been seeing anti-government protests since about two months ago. The unrest began after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refrained from signing a political and trade deal with the European Union (EU).
Clashes erupted several times between Ukrainian protesters and police forces during anti-government demonstrations. Arrests were made in the course of the protests as well.
In an effort to calm the political unrest, President Yanukovych invited all parties, including the opposition, to engage in dialog. However, the Ukrainian opposition leaders turned down his offer of negotiations.
He also offered top government positions to the opposition leaders, which they rejected. Yanukovych also pledged to change the constitution to reduce the president’s powers, following another decision to scrap an anti-protest law.
The unrest, nevertheless, continues unabated in Ukraine.
“Of all the violent protests that we have been witness to, the Ukrainian one is the most orchestrated,” Roberts said. “Ukraine has a democratically-elected government, but Washington doesn’t like it because Washington didn’t pick it.”
“Ukraine – or the western part of it – is full of Washington-funded NGOs, whose purpose is to deliver Ukraine into the clutches of the EU, where US and European banks can loot the country, as they looted, for example, Latvia,” he said, adding that, “The NGOs financed by Washington are committed to delivering Ukraine into Washington’s hands, where Ukrainians can become American serfs.”
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic advisor Sergey Glazyev described the situation in Ukraine as an attempted coup.
“According to our information, American sources spend $20 million a week on financing the [Ukrainian] opposition and rebels, including on weapons,” Glazyev told the Ukrainian edition of Russian newspaper Kommersant.