Brussels, 12 May 2010
ENP Country Progress Report 2009 – the occupied Palestinian territory
The Commission published on 12 May 2010 the so-called neighbourhood package, consisting of an overall assessment of five years of implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), 12 country reports on developments in 2009, including one on the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and a sector report.
In 2009, the Palestinian Authority pursued its efforts to build robust state institutions within two years in line with Prime Minister Fayyad’s state-building plan, for which the EU has expressed full support.
The EU and the Palestinian Authority (PA) made further steps towards enhancing political dialogue and reform within the framework of the ENP, most notably in the fields of rule of law and public financial management.
However, the ability of the PA to implement reforms continued to be limited as a result of the ongoing Israeli occupation, the blockade of Gaza and by the persistent political, legal and economic split between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The reforms were limited to institutions in the West Bank, and could not be implemented in Gaza where the PA has de facto no authority.
Situation in the Middle East and political dialogue
As a consequence of the Gaza conflict in December 2008-January 2009, the Middle East peace talks stalled.
During 2009 Israel relaxed some movement and access restrictions in the West Bank, but other Israeli actions in the West Bank continued to be seen as undermining the PA. Gaza continued to be under Israeli siege despite consistent calls from the international community for full opening of crossings for both humanitarian and commercial traffic. Although in late 2009, Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, it excludes East Jerusalem, where settlement activities, house demolitions and evictions continued.
Since the end of the Gaza conflict, rockets and mortar shells have continued to be fired from Gaza. The Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit abducted by Hamas in June 2006 remains in captivity. The EU called for a complete halt to violence and for the release of the soldier.
Promotion of democratic governance was hampered with the indefinite postponement of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled in January 2010. The work of the Palestinian Legislative Council remained suspended.
There were increasing signs of improvement of the justice sector in the West Bank. In 2009 the number of judges was further increased to 190 and prosecutors to 158, all of them trained at the Palestinian Judicial Institute with EU support. The courts started to tackle the case backlog.
The PA continued its efforts to build a professional civil police with the help of the EU mission EUPOL COPPS. The EU also provided direct support for provision of vehicles and communication equipment for the police, the construction of the Jericho Police Training Centre, construction of penitentiary facilities in Nablus, and other construction for security force headquarters in Nablus and Jenin, as well as human rights training for security forces through its "Breaking the Silence – say no to torture" project.
There was a marked decrease in allegations of torture in the West Bank, following PM Fayyad’s instructions to eliminate maltreatment of detainees in September 2009. In November 2009, for the first time in almost 11 months, visits to detention centres of the security agencies were authorised.
The mandate of the EU Border Assistance Mission in Rafah (crossing point from Gaza to Egypt) was extended until May 2010. The mission maintains its operational capability and remains prepared to redeploy its personnel as soon as conditions permit.
A Palestinian National Committee to combat violence against women was established under the leadership of the Ministry for Women's Affairs. Five women are represented in the June 2009 Government, out of 23 ministers.
In 2009, the PA continued to carry out substantial public financial management reforms and is currently preparing a comprehensive public financial management strategy.
Economic integration and trade
In real terms, GDP in the occupied Palestinian territory is still well below the level of ten years ago. The overall poverty rate in the oPt is 57% with an estimated 80% of people living below the poverty line in Gaza Strip.
In 2009 the Palestinian economy grew by 6.8% of the GDP (+2.3% in 2008).
The EU’s trade with the oPt contracted slightly in 2009 - the EU’s export to the oPt fell by 9.4%, and imports decreased by 14.5% as compared to 2008.
In September 2009, the PA submitted its application to become an observer in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and engaged in a process of consultations with other WTO members both in Geneva and locally.
In June 2009, the PA adopted the protocol on Pan-Euro-Mediterranean cumulation of origin.
Sector cooperation - examples
Energy: The trilateral cooperation between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the European Commission, which was re-launched in 2008, was stalled in the context of the Gaza conflict and absence of negotiations between the parties. The aim remains the establishment of a joint energy office and the facilitation of projects of common interest, such as the joint Israeli-Palestinian “Solar for Peace” initiative. In 2009, an EU funded study to support the “Solar for Peace” project was completed.
Telecommunications: In November 2009 a second Palestinian mobile phone operator started operations. This is one of the largest foreign investments in the Palestinian economy, which will inject € 500 million in investment, € 250 million in fiscal revenue for the PA, and will create thousands of jobs. In order to attain full operations a further 1 MHz of frequencies needs still to be released by the Israeli authorities.
Research: In 2009, the PA established a contact point for the 7th Framework Programme (FP7). The participation of Palestinian researchers in the calls of FP7 has increased, but remains relatively low - mainly in agriculture, environment and ICT themes - for a contribution of € 0.5 million.
Education: In 2007-2009, thanks to Erasmus Mundus grants, 195 Palestinian students and academics could pursue studies in EU universities for up to three years.
Culture: Palestinian organizations participated actively at regional level in the new Euro-Med Heritage IV programme. However, the Israeli decision to prevent the organization of cultural events for the Jerusalem – Capital of Arab Culture initiative in 2009 hindered Palestinians from expressing their identity in the areas in which they live.
EU–oPt – BACKGROUND
FACTS AND FIGURES
1997: The Palestinian Authority and the EU concluded an Interim Association Agreement on trade and cooperation
2005: EU-PA ENP Action Plan was approved
2008: Launch of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM, reinforced Euro-Mediterranean Partnership).
December 2008-January 2009: Israeli incursion into Gaza Strip: Over 1400 Palestinians were killed, including over 400 children, and more than 5000 were wounded. Effects on economic and institutional structures in Gaza were devastating.
2004-2009 EU Financial Assistance to the Palestinian people from the EU budget amounted to € 2.458 billion with this principally directed to direct and indirect financial support for the PA, as well as UNRWA, humanitarian and food aid. Most assistance is channelled through the EU PEGASE Mechanism
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