Official Journal of the European Communities

C 229 E/49

When the state of Israel was founded in 1948, 95 % of the population were Palestinian Christians (the majority of them Greek Orthodox, together with a large number of Catholics and Armenian Christians), but this percentage has now been reduced to 45 %. The exodus of Palestinian Christians mainly to Australia and North and South America has in recent months reached dangerous proportions, with Israeli armoured units entering Bethlehem, the death of 20 Palestinians last October and the destruction of 200 homes belonging to Greek Orthodox Palestinians. As seen in the barring of Arafat’s visit on Christmas night, the Sharon government is endeavouring through both military and political means to wipe out the Palestinian Christian element in Bethlehem, because this element remains true to its Arabic identity, is moderate and, because of its religious convictions, has not wandered onto the path of Islamic extremism, which would have made it politically vulnerable; it also has the support of Christian churches in the West and, in theory, would be able to survive economically through religious tourism. In addition to the general initiatives for the Middle East, what particular action does the Council intend to take with regard to the Israeli Government to ensure that the Palestinians in the Bethlehem area who are mainly Christians remain there?

Reply (27 June 2002) The Council underlines that the important contribution which the EU as a leading donor has made in the past to avert a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and to lay the seeds for genuine economic development has, in the eyes of the Council, benefited Palestinians of all faiths in the Occupied Territories.

(2002/C 229 E/052)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-0009/02 by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission (17 January 2002)

Subject: Postponement and prevention of the construction, using European money, of a harbour and an airport on the Palestinian territory around the city of Gaza 1. Is the Commission aware that the small, densely populated Palestinian area around the city of Gaza, which from 1948 to 1967 was administered as part of Egypt and was then under Israeli military control for a long period, is still, even after the coming of Palestinian self-government, only accessible to the outside world via land links with Israel, and that the area is, as a result, totally dependent for the transport of passengers and goods on the ports of Ashdod and Haifa and on Lod airport, all of which are situated in Israel? 2. Does the Commission agree that without a port and airport of their own the autonomous Palestinian territories cannot develop into a neighbour on an equal economic footing with Israel and that, despite Israeli objections, European support should be given to enable these facilities to be funded, constructed without disturbance and used on a permanent basis? 3. What is the Commission’s view of the announcement of 4 December 2001 by the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation to the effect that because of permanent opposition the country would be definitively withdrawing a sum of 23 million euro granted at the beginning of the nineties of which a good 20 % has already been spent and breaking off a contract with a Dutch-French building consortium, after which it would probably do nothing other than submitting a claim for damages to the Israeli government? 4. Can the Commission say what the chances are of implementing the plans to provide Gaza with an independently functioning port and airport, now that as a result of Israeli opposition the preparations have been delayed for years, damage has been done to both sites by the Israeli army in the course of 2001 and, as a result, part of the necessary funding could now be lost?

C 229 E/50

Official Journal of the European Communities



5. Is the Commission prepared to arrange for the commitment of EU funds to the development of the abovementioned transport facilities in and around Gaza in order to make it clear to everyone that temporary obstacles will not lead to cancellation of the plans, and to encourage the Member States to do the same? Source: De Volkskrant of 5 December 2001.

Answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission (21 February 2002) 1. The Commission is aware of the fact that the Gaza Strip’s main supply routes are through Israeli controlled seaports, airports, and border crossings with Egypt. 2. The Commission agrees that having access to its own airport and harbour would be a substantial contribution to building a viable Palestinian economy. The Union, with the encouragement of Israeli leaders like Shimon Peres, has been providing substantial support to the construction of such facilities. 3. The Commission regrets that the work on the Gaza seaport was stopped, particularly as the Commission had already engaged in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on the funding of training for future port officials, and providing equipment for the port operation. 4. Given the unpredictability of the situation on the ground and given the fact that the Gaza airport has been destroyed by Israeli military forces, and the construction of the Gaza seaport is stopped, it is not possible to give any estimation on the time needed to render both projects operational. Any chances to resume both operations would depend on the political/security situation on the ground and the willingness of the international donor community to re-invest in the destroyed projects. 5. The Commission would be strongly in favour of an early reconstruction of the Gaza airport and resumption of the construction of the Gaza seaport. The Commission would encourage the engagement of the international donor community and particularly the Member States. At this stage however, the Commission is not in a position of announcing any financial contribution to either of the two projects. The Commission would like to point out that its financial support to the Palestinian people has increased substantially since the current crisis erupted in September 2000, and that Commission resources are limited given the demands made on the Commission in other parts of the world.

(2002/C 229 E/053)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-0015/02 by Graham Watson (ELDR) to the Commission (21 January 2002)

Subject: EU Development Project Money The British Government recently adopted the Issues Paper Disability, poverty and development which calls for disabled people to be included in all overseas development work. In the light of this and the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly Resolution on the rights of disabled people and older people in ACP countries (ref. ACP-EU 3313/01/fin.) what plans does the Commission have to adopt a similar approach?

Answer given by Mr Nielson on behalf of the Commission (21 February 2002) Disability must be mainstreamed into all development work in order to integrate people with disabilities in developing countries. New approaches at country level such as poverty reduction strategy processes are increasing the voice and participation of civil society groups, including those that represent disabled people, in the development of national policies. The Community will continue to fund the work of

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