Tuesday, 10 August 2004

The EU gives more aid to Third World countries than anyone else…

… what more can we do?

This is such an important and convoluted issue and one, furthermore, that will be at the heart of the ‘yes’ campaign during the referendum, that we have decided to cover it in several postings.

It is one of the boasts of the European Union that its credentials as a caring political entity are impeccable as it disperses more in aid than any other country or organization. When one adds the extra sums that individual member states hand over on top of the substantial EU aid budget, the amounts become mind-bogglingly substantial.

Yet, there is no improvement in the state of those Third World countries – or not as much as the sums dispersed might warrant – and the EU is constantly accused of not being generous enough. Maybe there is something wrong with the thinking, as many of our recent blogs (on the WTO non-deal, the sugar regime and the Palestinian Authority) indicate.

In the first place the giving of aid seems to be beset with corruption both on the giving and the receiving side. There appears to be no control as to how the money is dispersed and who benefits. No business plans, accounts, receipts or reports are required. The European Court of Auditors has time and again castigated ECHO, the aid-giving organization in the EU and individual programmes. Nothing much has been done to improve either accounting or accountability and large sums keep disappearing.

Rather belatedly (but then, better late than never) OLAF, the EU fraud investigation agency, which, as readers of this blog know, has been running into some problems of its own, is holding a “classified” investigation into the final destination of some of the funds that have been dispersed to the Palestinian Authority (a matter of some 1.5 billion euros in the last decade).

Documents, authenticated by a number of international experts, have been presented by the Israelis that show incontrovertibly money going from the Palestinian Authority to the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade. This has been confirmed by a number of that Brigade’s members but denied by, among others, Chris Patten, who has assured the world that every penny of EU aid to the PA has been accounted for, it’s just err … he can’t exactly lay his hands on the right documents.

The OLAF Commission is going to Israel to interview prisoners there, many of whom have already boasted that they received and direct instructions from the Palestinian Authority.

The reason Patte cannot lay his hands on those documents is because they do not exist. Even if the OLAF commission establishes that money has been transferred to the terrorists (we on this blog are not afraid of the ‘t’ word) what will happen? Will the money be cut back? Not on your life. Will they further look into the amounts that have been creamed off by Chairman Arafat (the EU’s golden boy), his wife, his friends and relations? Guess again.

Will OLAF or, for that matter, the Commission start demanding proper accounts from the PA and numerous other political organizations and governments as well as evidence that the aid money has actually achieved anything? Oh stop asking stupid questions.

To be continued

Helen Szamuely
This article first appeared on http://EUReferendum.blogspo…