Commenting this evening on the Israeli refusal to allow an EU Parliament working group entry into Gaza during a visit to the region from 27th to 30th October, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said:
“I endorse the sentiments expressed by the Chairperson of the European Parliament's Delegation to the Palestinian Legislative Council (DPLC), Emer Costello, when she said that ‘she is both astounded and dismayed at the decision of the Israeli authorities to refuse an official visit of the delegation to Gaza’.
“This visit had the full support of Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament and despite his intervention and those of other distinguished Parliamentarians, the Israeli Authorities decided to block elected members of an official EU delegation from paying a humanitarian visit to this ravaged and impoverished region.
“The official reason given for refusal of access to Gaza was - 'in line with the policy according to which Israel does not facilitate visits to the Gaza Strip which will strengthen Hamas, a terror organization designated as such also by the European Union.'
“This explanation is deplorable and without foundation. Our visit was due to take place under the auspices of UNRWA, and clearly focused on vital public services such as schools, health centres and food distribution centres. Furthermore, we had arranged to visit EU-funded job programmes and hold meetings on education with students from the Christian community. Given the worrying current developments in the region, the programme had a purely social, economic and humanitarian focus.
“Today at the European Parliament we voted on the budget line ‘financial assistance to Palestine, the peace process and UNRWA’, granting €300 million in funding to the region for 2014. This makes the decision to refuse access to elected Members of the European Parliament even more disgraceful and nonsensical.
“We have requested that President Schulz and High Representative Catherine Ashton take up the issue with the Israeli authorities and that we continue with the mission. In the event that we are refused access to Gaza, it is envisaged that we meet with UNRWA in the West Bank."