Ireland criticises EU delay in funds for Palestine amid warnings over food

Oxfam says vital food supplies were at risk of being exhausted as war in Ukraine continues

Ireland has criticised the European Commission for a delay in delivering €200 million in promised funds for Palestine at a time when it is struggling to cope with rising food prices.

It comes as Oxfam warns that wheat flour reserves in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are at risk of running out within three weeks, with many households in the Gaza Strip already eating less and buying food on credit as the invasion of Ukraine drives up the cost of staples worldwide.

“We’re very frustrated, and I think we’re not the only country that’s frustrated,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said as he arrived at a meeting of his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.

“The European Commission has essentially been delaying funding for the Palestinian Authority which is worth over €200 million, and that’s 2021 funding,” he said.


“We don’t believe there is any justification for any further delay,” he added. “We have enough problems in the world without creating more by not funding a Palestinian organisation who desperately needs to provide supports for their own people.”

Ireland and 14 other member states signed a letter to the European Commission calling for the immediate release of the funds for 2021 and criticising the delay in disbursing them, saying it did not have the mandate of EU governments.

The letter accused the commission of delaying funding because it wanted to make the pay-out conditional on the Palestinian Authority reforming its education sector.

“As you know, the Palestinian Authority is in a challenging situation and is experiencing a severe fiscal crisis, further compounded by the inflation of oil and wheat prices caused by the war in Ukraine,” the letter read.

“The EU objective, and the objective of the international community, must be to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. The continued delay in releasing EU assistance risks having the opposite effect. It is essential that we release funding as soon as possible.”

“In addition, it is imperative that we do all we can to empower moderate voices vis-à-vis more radical actors,” it added.

The letter was signed by the foreign ministers of Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Oxfam issued a warning on Monday that vital food supplies were at risk of being exhausted, warning that the Palestinian Authority imports 95 per cent of its wheat flour and that Israel in turn imports almost half of its grain and cereals from Ukraine.

Ukraine is a major global supplier of food but its sowing season was interrupted by the invasion and the Russian advance has blocked supplies from leaving through its ports, risking hunger in vulnerable regions of the Middle East and North Africa that depend on its grain. Almost two thirds of Gaza lives in a state of food insecurity, according to the World Food Programme.

“Palestinian households are being hit hard by rising global food prices, and many are struggling to meet their basic needs,” said Shane Stevenson, Oxfam country director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.

“The reliance on imports and the constraints forced upon them by Israel’s continuing military occupation, settler violence and land grabs are compounding the food crisis.”

The price of animal feed has jumped 60 per cent in the West Bank, while in the Occupied Palestinian Territory the price of wheat flour is up 24 per cent, corn oil up 26 per cent, lentils up 18 per cent, and table salt up 30 per cent, the NGO warned, saying this was “decimating Palestinians’ purchasing power”.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times