Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120 - 139)



  Q120  Lord Tomlinson: I have one more supplementary question because that struck me slightly as being the ambition of every gambler, of being able to have an each-way bet on a two-horse race. You seem to be saying to the Committee that you thought we ought to maintain the three points, but almost find a way of disguising the fact that we were maintaining them in the hope that we could make progress. Now, how are we actually going to bridge that gap of maintaining the three conditions, which I think most members of this Committee would believe are important conditions to our international credibility, and at the same time hold them in such almost abeyance that we could persuade the Unity Government that we did not really mean what we were saying and they could really start trading with us?

  Dr Youngs: I think the issue is the kind of tactics that the EU tries to employ to actually maximise the possibility of those conditions being fulfilled. I think many EU diplomats have been minded to argue that the impact of the boycott is that that has helped moderate Hamas positions and it has pushed it towards accepting the principle of the Unity Government. I think it is probably more convincing to argue that both Hamas and Fatah have realised that they are simply fighting each other into a standstill, that neither can prevail convincingly over the other in terms of an armed conflict and, therefore, both have had the incentive to enter into the Unity Government. For me, the problem with the EU policy over the last year is that the argument was that the EU could try to combine the best of two worlds, that it could pressure Hamas through the boycott, but at the same time ensure that basic services were provided through the Temporary International Mechanism, so it is routinely pointed out that during the last year the amount of EU assistance going to the Occupied Territories has actually increased quite significantly. For example, the overall EU spend has increased to about $800 million, up about a quarter between 2005 and 2006, and a lot of the aid projects actually were not cut off immediately, but were just wound down in an ad hoc way. For me, the trouble is that, in trying to combine the best of those two worlds, the outcome arguably has been the worst of two worlds, namely that the EU has increased resources, but undoubtedly has lost goodwill, popularity and leverage amongst the Palestinians, but at the same time the support provided through the Temporary International Mechanism is a drop in the ocean compared to the magnitude of challenges facing the Occupied Territories, and it has not been able to prevent quite a significant increase in poverty levels amongst the Palestinians during the last year.

  Q121  Lord Anderson of Swansea: We agree that the Venice Declaration was, as its name implies, in practice pure Euro-rhetoric which put the prospects of a reasonable relationship with Israel back for a generation. Yes, there are very important things which have been done at the micro-level by the European Union and the relationship with Israel is now better, but in what way can these micro-initiatives be translated into effective leverage for the bigger issues? Nobody is suggesting, for example, that the trade relationships with Israel are likely to be an effective lever for pressure.

  Dr Youngs: I would argue that one of the areas where perhaps we have seen the biggest disappointment in the EU philosophy has been on the economic side, the fact that Israel has basically disregarded some of the key principles inherent in the Association Agreement signed with the EU. I recognise that there are many, many reports over many years which have urged the EU to get tougher with Israel and the retort is always that that would be counter-productive and anyway would not win—

  Q122  Lord Anderson of Swansea: You are suggesting that there should be a boycott?

  Dr Youngs:—would not win the support of all Member States, for well-known, historical reasons. Even if one shares some of that caution and scepticism, I think it is undoubtedly the case that one thing that has not been good for EU influence and credibility is for Israel to have been able to disregard the economic principles of the agreements that it itself has signed with the European Union on the issue of labelling of products from settlements and on the Israeli insistence that Palestinian exports to European markets have to pass through Israeli intermediaries. I think the fact that the EU has stood aside and allowed these kinds of things to happen has undermined the EU's own economic leverage.

  Q123  Lord Anderson of Swansea: That is par for the course. The EU has not insisted on the human rights clauses or worldwide, but are you suggesting that these elements in the Agreement can somehow be translated into effective pressure on Jerusalem, refugees or whatever?

  Dr Youngs: I would argue that it is at this kind of economic level where the EU can operate best, but it needs to understand that, after 10 years of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, it needs to begin to use this very rich, dense network of co-operation on every conceivable area of policy as a way of gaining leverage that is actually directly related to the prospects of the EU's own instruments working effectively. If only the EU would focus on creating the conditions for its own economic, social, civil society initiatives to work properly, that in itself could be an advance. For example, the EU has set up a number of trilateral forums which involve the European Union, the Israelis and the Palestinians to talk about issues of practical co-operation, transport, energy, infrastructure. Most people argue that, in a way, these provide a useful forum for Israelis and Palestinians to sit down and talk about issues of practical co-operation while violence has escalated, but these forums simply have not been able to work in the way that was intended and the kind of philosophy that was expounded when the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was set up has not been able to kick in, has not been able to work effectively. For example, whilst the agreement on movement and access has been disregarded, the conditions do not exist for those kinds of instruments to work in the way they were designed, and I think that is one of the disappointing aspects of European policy, that these low politics instruments have not themselves been able to improve overarching political conditions, but seem rather dependent and reactive on a prior improvement in those political conditions.

  Q124  Lord Anderson of Swansea: Would you agree that the failure to use those instruments works on both sides, not only in terms of the settlements, closures and so on, but in terms of an unwillingness to deal with the Palestinians in the past before the Hamas victory over matters like the Palestinian textbooks praising shahidis and the corruption which was endemic and which went without serious criticism from OLAF?

  Dr Youngs: I would have a great deal of sympathy with that, I think. The EU has a potential to nudge Palestinian democratic reform far more than it did do although I think the EU is walking a thin line in taking on the lead role on institutional reform. On the one hand, the big issue of course was still that one cannot not have a fully functioning, democratic Palestinian State until occupation is ended, so that is still the big issue, and that focusing and pressing on issues of corruption, for example, should not be a kind of pretext for taking the critical spotlight off occupation, but, on the other hand, I think the EU did realise that neglecting issues of underlying reform was itself militating against the prospects for longer-term peace. I think the danger was that, for many years, the EU was pouring money into a black hole and it did not pursue the reform agenda as vigorously as it could have done. It was rather ambivalent when elections were postponed in 2005 and the perception was that, in talking about democratic reform, what the EU really meant was supporting Abbas against the rise of Hamas, and I think the lesson is that, the more one does that, the more one actually facilitates the conditions that explain the rise of Hamas. That is why I think, in a way, there is something counter-intuitive in the current approach of going back to a situation where the EU is favouring a small clique of Fatah elites around the President's office because, for many years, the EU was funding precisely this clique, their record on governance standards was rather bad and that was part of the reason why Hamas won the elections in 2006. I think, if we are in a situation where the EU can move back towards funding longer-term institutional reform issues, there are some very important lessons there for the way in which that reform agenda should be supported. I think it is important not to equate supporting democratic reform with supporting the President or supporting our kind of moderate allies. I think in the lessons from other conflict situations around the world, it is that kind of logic that gets international actors into all kinds of problems when their talk of supporting democratic norms is reduced to support for "our kind of democrats", and I think that must be realised on the back of the formation of a new government.

  Dr Springborg: I think the EU has gotten remarkably little for the money it has spent in Israel and Palestine on this whole conflict, and it has done so with regard to both actors. We have heard Richard just describing the inability to induce Israel to comply with agreements that it has signed for a variety of reasons and, on the other side, with which I am more familiar, the inability to translate what has been general budgetary support of a very great amount into any sort of specific commitment on the part of the Palestinians or accomplishments on the part of the Palestinians to what we broadly call `reform'. It is high politics with regard to Israel and it is low politics with regard to Palestine, and low politics means essentially state-building, all the various activities that would go into that. I am more familiar with that than I am with high policy matters.

    What is absolutely apparent, in my mind from viewing the situation on the ground, is that the EU is not taken as a serious actor in comparison to the bilateral actors, whether the United States or the European countries themselves. So the general budgetary support, which was, interestingly enough, never passed through the Legislature, the Palestinian Legislative Council, but was provided to the executive branch essentially without any conditions, undermined the very role of the Legislature in its capacity to oversee the Executive by virtue of being a blank cheque to the Executive. This is true of a considerable amount of the aid also given by the United States, but it is true of basically all the assistance given by the European Union. How would gentlemen in this august body feel if a major percentage, (and indeed the Palestinians are more dependent on donor assistance than virtually any other people in the world), if a primary part of their budget were beyond their oversight? It would undermine the very role of the institution.

    So that is a starting point for the sort of leverage which, it seems to me, is necessary on the part of the Palestinians. I would urge the EU, because it has been the primary financial backer—and that financial backing now is essentially only humanitarian assistance, it is nothing more than that, so it has no institutional carryovers at all now and it had only slight ones before that,—to balance the pressure that it has by virtue of the purse strings. Whether it is in the variety of agreements with the Israelis regarding access, or with the Palestinians for budgetary support, the EU should use the purse strings on both sides in a balanced way to try to bring the two parties together, rather than leaning heavily on one side or the other. It is perfectly clear that the record has been to lean very heavily on the Palestinian side and very lightly, if at all, on the Israeli side.

  Q125  Lord Tomlinson: We have been hearing a great deal in the last 10 minutes or so about the money going to Palestine and how it is being used, and you have now referred to the very substantial funds actually which go from donors, including Europe, to Israel. One of the charges which has been made is that a lot of that is being used to provide infrastructure, road infrastructure, for example, which is almost entirely related to the construction of a wall and the division of Palestine and that this is an area where Europe is effectively, it has been put in one paper we received, financing apartheid, the separation. Is this not an area, if we are going to talk about balance, where Europe could be looking at the way that funds are being used by Israel as well as the issues we have just been discussing about Palestine?

  Dr Springborg: Yes, it is. The fungibility of those monies of course is a question and to track how monies are used in a complex, large economy like that of Israel is difficult. But there is a precedent and that was the United States when it, under the previous Bush Administration, tied its pledge on loans to the non-utilisation of those funds in the Occupied Territories. It reduced the amount provided in direct relation to the amount of money Israel was using in the Occupied Territories from those funds. It sent quite a strong message from the Bush Administration at that time, which played a part in no small measure in bringing about a more flexible negotiating attitude and ultimately, it seems to me, to the Oslo Process. Therefore, there is a precedent in the use of monies, even when they are quite fungible in the case of Israel, to send a message that we, as the United States in that case or we as the EU potentially in this one, do not support your activities, such as road-building in the Occupied Territories, we do not want our monies being used there. Israel is very attentive to that, not because the money itself means so terribly much, but because of the diplomatic message that it sends.

  Q126  Lord Anderson of Swansea: It is a bit of an illusion because monies which are not spent for A or which are not used for A will be diverted to B, so is that not a bit of gesture politics really?

  Dr Springborg: Well, it is gesture politics because these monies are very fungible. You are absolutely right. But we do have the historical example where in fact, when the monies were not all that great, they were symbolic, so they nevertheless did have an impact. I think the historical records are reasonably clear on that.

  Q127  Lord Swinfen: I think to some extent you have already answered my question, but you may want to say some more. What, in your view, have been the consequences of the recent EU positions, especially the boycotting of the Hamas-led Palestinian Government? Do you think the EU should engage with the national Unity Government and what conditions would you put on that?

  Dr Springborg: I have just returned from Ramallah myself where I was at a conference on administrative reform there. To me, it is a tragedy that a transition was not supported by the EU and by other donor states. I look upon this not only from the point of view of Palestine, but from democratisation more generally in the Middle East. The January 2006 election, which brought about a change in government in Palestine, was the first time in the history of the modern Arab world that a free and fair election has led to that result. We have, as democratisers, focused very heavily on elections and a variety of other activities to promote democracy. We have never had the opportunity to go the next step of what happens if an election brings about a change in government, and what would happen within the executive branch as a result of that. No Arab state has adequate civil service laws and regulations that enable a smooth transition of power. They do not have a history of transition or power they do not have regulations for it and they do not have the tradition of independent civil service organisations. Here was an opportunity where donors have enormous influence to bring about a transition of power that would insulate, not only at this time but in the future, the civil service from the sorts of depredations that Fatah engaged in since the civil service was built up from 1993. There was a huge loss of opportunity here to create, in a sense, a modern independent civil service. That was overlooked, it seems to me, in the broader issues surrounding this transition, including Islamism versus secularism and a variety of other considerations. At the heart of the matter was the opportunity to create a government that would be responsive, in a proper way, to the party in power with all the appropriate safeguards, and so on, for the independence of that civil service. That to me was not only a loss for Palestine but a loss for our broader democratisation effort throughout the Arab world. The consequences on the ground, as I have witnessed them just recently and over a long period of time, of this failed transition, is to undermine the capacity of Palestinians to have any idea of their own future. The Oslo process had created in the minds of Palestinians a vision of their economic, social and political future they were pretty much agreed upon. The election of Hamas called into question that future because it was a radical departure from the status quo. The failure of any government to be in power—and I mean that because neither the executive nor the legislative branch nor the judicial branch are working and have not been working since March/April a year ago—means the Palestinians have lost a sense of what their future will be. When you have no vision of the future, the idea that you can engage in administrative reform is lost. Why are we tinkering? There are no clear objectives. The cost of the boycott of the Palestinian government has been enormous to not only state building in Palestine, but to the image that Palestinians have of themselves and their future; they are a lost people. That means, in my mind, a desperate people, and a desperate people are far less likely to be good partners for peace than those who are much less desperate, feel in control of their fate, and have an idea of where they want to take their nation. That has been, to my mind, the price of, first, the election and the outcome, but more importantly the failure of the transition and the failure of the EU to support that transition.

  Q128  Lord Anderson of Swansea: All institutions are politicised. It is a fault of government and it is a fault of the non-governmental organisations because their counterparts in Palestine are all politicised in some way. They are not impartial. Can you say a little about the security organisations and the extent to which EU money in the past went to assist those on a sort of job creation basis and how we reform the security structures?

  Dr Springborg: Richard is better placed to describe the security sector reform efforts by the EU. I would just say that I am not so sure that all civil society organisations are themselves as politicised, paradoxically, as the government itself. The government was, in a sense, used as an extension of Fatah to implement the will of Yasser Arafat and his cronies. Many civil society organisations reacted against that. They wanted to look upon themselves more in terms of good governance—that they were supporting, upholding and advocating the principles of good governance against the government that was manifestly bad. I think that engaging with civil society in Palestine has real potential precisely because there is a substantial commitment to good governance in that sector and much less of a commitment to it in government itself. That includes, of course, and most importantly, the security sector. I am sure Richard has views on the EU support for it.

  Dr Youngs: I wanted to reinforce Robert's point about the damaging impact on the EU's wider relations with the Middle East because of the fact the EU declined to take the opportunity to support the democratic transition last year. Here one had democratic elections, and the nature of the EU's decision not to deal with the results of those elections has had a damaging impact for its broader reform agenda across the Middle East. It has strengthened the voices of sceptics who argue that the EU is completely disingenuous in its support of democratic norms and would not be willing to deal with democratically elected governments whose policies we may uncomfortable with. I have answered some of the points regarding the way in which we could engage with a new government. While there is a lot of optimism at the moment about the prospects of doing that, there is one word of caution. Coming back to the point, I do not think we should see the unity government in itself as a panacea. In particular, care needs to be taken in case it leads to a situation where you get an elite power sharing deal with decisions being taken behind closed doors in a way that diminishes the responsiveness of government and leads to a situation where the population feels more excluded from public decision making. The lesson from other conflict situations is where that happens it does not auger well for long-term peace. On security sector reform, again this was an area where the EU had begun to build up some quite promising potential through the COPPS programme, which was initially a UK programme and became an EU initiative. One of the disappointing issues is that has basically been rendered inoperational during the last year. It is often asserted that the EU has had more of a focus on genuine underlying reform of the security sector and does talk about the need to strengthen civilian control over security forces and the need to help create a single security service, and that contrasts with the US approach where we know that the US has approved quite large funding directly for the presidential guard. That difference, to a certain extent, is real; it is genuine. I think the EU has tried to address longer term reform of the security sectors but there are shortcomings in the EU's own approach. The EU's own approach raises some quite serious questions. The EU has tried to link various issues of rule of law to its provision of security assistance but most of the aid under COPPS has still gone to the provision of hardware, of anti-riot equipment, and not really addressing the more fundamental reform issues. Within the Palestinian territories the COPPS were still perceived as the EU helping to try and quash Hamas more than giving Hamas a legitimate stake in the provision of security. That imbalance is something that would still need to be addressed if it is the case that security sector reform is brought back into a broadened international funding mechanism.

  Q129  Lord Anderson of Swansea: The numbers clearly supported a very large security sector, sometimes effectively private armies. Did the EU do anything to make it more manageable, to reduce the numbers?

  Dr Youngs: No, I do not think it did. There were various initiatives talking in rather general terms about the importance of embedding the provision of security within a framework subject to the rule of law but that is part of my point. I do not think it got down to this nitty-gritty level of making sure that one was not simply, or even inadvertently, supporting one faction against another, rather than incorporating this plethora of different security providers into a more coherent framework that really was subject to democratic accountability. A lot of the ideas were right and well intentioned but that was not really working even before COPPS became inoperational after the boycott last year.

  Q130  Chairman: You have implicitly answered the second part of Lord Swinfen's question about whether the EU should encourage others to engage with the government of national unity. The final point was on what conditions should it do this? Do you have any view on that?

  Dr Youngs: We have heard a lot of statements and ministerial speeches in recent weeks with prominent European politicians saying that we need to judge the new government and Hamas on its actions rather than simply continuing to back Hamas into a corner to fulfil the condition, particularly on recognition, in a formal rhetorical sense, in a way that Hamas at the moment is probably unlikely to do, when actually some of these governance issues are of greater concern and relevance to people's day-to-day concerns. Some of the tragedy of putting all the emphasis on the well-known three conditions over the last year is it has diverted attention from some of the very real and serious governance concerns not only related to Fatah but in relation to Hamas as well. There are some reports that point to concerns over the clientelism, the nepotism, that increasingly conditions the way that Hamas distributes its own network of social benefits. That is a real factor engendering some of the social tensions we have seen over the last year. Again the EU has declined to try and improve those kinds of governance concerns because of its priority attention on the other three conditions.

  Dr Springborg: I think it needs to be recognised that Saudi Arabia has put its shoulder to the wheel of peacemaking in the region, and the fact that King Abdullah hosted the meeting in Mecca which essentially put the Saudis in the forefront of trying to not only arbitrate between Hamas and Fatah, but to come up with a solution that would be acceptable to the EU and the world as a whole. It was a very important contribution. The fact that the United States in particular has hung back from fully endorsing the Mecca agreement, the EU and some of its Member States, but much less so, is not only not to be thankful for this effort by the Saudis, but to forego the opportunity to build on it. It is my understanding of that agreement that it called for the "respect" by Hamas for existing agreements signed by the PLO and the PA. It seems to me that is virtually enough to build upon. If they are respecting the agreements, then implicitly they are also governed by the other two conditions that Richard has just referred to. We would do ourselves two services by using the Mecca agreement: first, we would reinforce this very favourable role that the Saudis have assumed for themselves and performed so adroitly, in my mind; and, secondly, we then open up the possibility of confirming through action what this term "respect" actually means, and by so doing then gain complete compliance with the other two aspects of the agreement, namely non-violence and recognition of Israel. We have every reason to move in behind this Mecca agreement.

  Q131  Lord Swinfen: I wonder if any training is being given by anyone to the Palestinian administration on the independence of the civil service.

  Dr Springborg: The UK government did indeed have a project of that nature which originally was to be with three ministries and, for a variety of reasons, it was then reduced to one, the Ministry of Labour and Manpower. That activity was basically just gearing up when the elections occurred. Then the prohibition on dealing directly with the PA was imposed upon the project so the UK stepped back from it. I am not aware of any activity with the public administration in Palestine that has gone on over any protracted period with an objective in mind of creating an independent civil service. Now this particular project continues with DFID, but on the grounds of working with civil society organisations trying to use them as leverage to accomplish public administration reform, but not within the public administration itself.

  Q132  Lord Crickhowell: We have covered part of the ground in the fourth question we had in our paper but it does specifically refer to initiatives under way to build better relations between Israeli and Palestinian citizens through civil society and other projects, what impact they had and should they be stepped up. Do you want to add anything to what you have already said in earlier answers?

  Dr Youngs: I have stated my position that basically the central point here is that a lot of those projects had ceased to function in de facto terms even before the Hamas electoral victory. Understandably a lot of the attention of debate over the last year has been on the boycott but in some senses the EU model was faltering well before that decision. A lot of southern Mediterranean governments do not send delegations to a lot of the low politics forums of co-operation that exist under the Euro Mediterranean partnership. Things like the Partnership for Peace Programme which was operated under the rubric of the Euro Mediterranean partnership have basically stagnated. When the Tenth Anniversary of the Euro Mediterranean partnership was celebrated at the end of 2005 only one Arab head of state attended that summit which sent a symbolic message as to the limits of EU leverage. The impact has been very limited and it calls for the need not to abandon those types of instruments but to make sure they are pursued as part of a broader political engagement.

  Dr Springborg: I would like to reinforce what Richard said. Track two diplomacy flourished during the Oslo process when it looked as if there was an end in site that would result in an independent Palestinian state. Once the second Intifada occurred everything unrolled after that, so track two diplomacy became almost irrelevant. It became irrelevant because both sides hardened. The overlap between the Israelis and the Palestinians grew less and less. The number of individuals and organisations that would engage in effective track two discussions and broader "coming to know one another" discussions significantly declined. The lesson is that the climate in which these sorts of interactions can prosper has to be a conducive one. We are far from that at the present time. I do not think there is much sense in focusing on civil society actors when the context is so unfavourable on either side for them to engage fruitfully. It is probably not the time to try to push that one too hard.

  Q133  Lord Anderson of Swansea: To what extent should we read Mecca in terms of Sunni-Shia and the concern of the Saudis that Iran was having a disproportionate influence on, Hezbollah, Hamas and so on?

  Dr Springborg: I think that we in the West tend to over-emphasise the Sunni-Shia divide. It is certainly there. The Saudis are concerned about Iran, but they are engaged with Iran, as recent diplomatic missions would attest. Some governments in the Arab world have overstated the divide for their own purposes. I do not think in this case in Mecca, and the agreement that was forged there, we need to attribute this to fear on the part of Saudi Arabia of Iran getting some sort of an upper hand vis-a"-vis Palestine. The Iranians do not have many cards to play in Palestine, unlike Lebanon. The Saudis have a significant track record of direct engagement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; after all, it was their initiative back in 2002 that led to the concerted Arab view of what the settlement should be. I think the Sunni-Shia divide is possibly a minor factor in Saudi calculations.

  Q134  Lord Anderson of Swansea: They went to sleep a little after 2002, did they not?

  Dr Springborg: They did indeed, but it partly has to do with regime transition within Saudi Arabia itself and partly to do with the conditions. Now the conditions are truly desperate and the Saudis typically move when conditions are bad, not when they are good.

  Q135  Lord Anderson of Swansea: It is also fair to say that Fatah has used the Shia charge against Hamas for example in its anniversary celebrations in January. For example, Hamas equating with Shia more damaging because of the Iranians exulting at the Iraqi execution of Saddam Hussein. That was a major charge which Fatah was using for its own purposes against Hamas.

  Dr Springborg: Exactly. It is this, dare I say, petty politicking, that is now going on between Sunni and Shia that certainly does reflect animosities even at a popular level. I do not see us being engulfed in some sort of overwhelming Sunni-Shia conflagration in the region. It is another factor one needs to be aware of and politicians will use it for their purposes, but is it really so divisive that we have to understand all the events on the ground through that lens? I think the answer is no.

  Q136  Chairman: We have quite a number of further questions to ask. Could we move on to the coherence of the European Union's position. Reference has already been made to the activities of individual Member States as well as the Union as a whole. How coherent and co-ordinated are the European Union's policies and instruments?

  Dr Youngs: This is a long-running problem. There is a clear disconnect between the political diplomatic level and the on-the-ground initiatives and presence of the EU and various European governments. This is a problem that is generic to CFSP. I think most analysts and practitioners recognise that it is a particularly serious problem in the context of the Middle East peace process. The long-running charge from the EU high representative and special representative is, in particular, that the rotating nature of the six months' presidency militates against continuity. One has a situation where for six months one presidency will be pushing the EU for greater engagement and the next presidency will want to rein back. Most people agree this has interrupted the continuity of the EU policy and made it more difficult to build up constant mutual trust amongst the different players. That really is a serious problem. Also competitive national diplomacy does not help the situation. Of course there are a large number of bilateral visits made, for example to Lebanon after the conflict last summer, that were not co-ordinated at the European level. One has a number of European governments forwarding well-meaning peace initiatives at a national level that are not co-ordinated at European level. One example was the recent initiative launched by the Spanish government. These initiatives do not seem to go anywhere and seem just to confuse the picture. The message from the region is this lack of co-ordination makes it very difficult to understand who is speaking on behalf of the EU. Different governments often undercut each other or, at the very least, give different nuances in their positions so this is an area that definitely needs to be worked on.

  Dr Springborg: If I could add the sort of worm's eye view of this, that is to say the focus on state building as opposed to the broader diplomacy in the Middle East peace process. It reflects what Richard was suggesting about the—incoherence would be too strong a term—failure of diplomatic co-ordination between the Member States of the EU and the ability of the EU to act as a single, coherent actor.

    With regard to state building on the ground in Palestine, the EU is not viewed as a terribly major actor. Despite the fact it is the major contributor, these are general budgetary and now humanitarian assistance support funds. When it comes to Palestinians, whether in government or an NGO, looking for partners, they rarely look to the EU; they are more typically engaged with European Member States or with the United States. The consequence of this is what was referred to last week at this conference as "shopping around". You could say this is a good thing that these actors looking for donor support are sharpening up their act and trying to present themselves well, but everyone agrees there is a downside, which is fragmentation of whatever area one is looking at within the Palestinian body politic—within institutions and in civil society itself. The donors themselves have failed to establish a mechanism between themselves, on the one hand, and the Palestinians, on the other. It is essentially a chaotic situation of markets on both sides, of donors looking for activities to support, and those who would be involved in the activities looking for donors. The consequence of this is that the aggregation of these particular projects amounts to very little. They are one-off projects not integrated into a broader strategy.

    Secondly, to build accountable governance the purse strings are very important. As I mentioned before, if all of these activities are circumventing the state structure, which basically has occurred, then there is no capacity on the part of parliament or local governments, for example, to hold accountable both donors and the beneficiaries of projects given donor support. The EU is only part, in my mind, of a much broader problem in this regard, but the EU could and, in my mind, should take the lead in trying to create the interface mechanism between the donors, on the one hand, and the Palestinian recipients, on the other, so as to reinforce good governance and the engagement of civil society productively, rather than leave it in the rather anarchic state in which it is presently situated.

  Dr Youngs: One message that was coming very clearly from recipients in the occupied territories of European funding before the boycott was that they often were receiving quite small amounts of money for very good projects but projects operating on a fairly small scale in complete ignorance of the fact that rather similar projects were being funded by other European donors and there was a problem of duplication. These were not being amplified up to a level where there was some critical mass behind the governance agenda. CFSP was designed so that the EU whole would be greater than the sum of its parts. The result has rather been the other way around. There are lots of very good individual initiatives but these do not really gel together. It is not clear who is speaking on the EU's behalf and the result is the whole ends up being rather less than the sum of its parts.

  Chairman: Commissioner Michel has reached some initiative in this direction that might lead to a greater degree of coordination not only in the Middle East but elsewhere.

  Q137  Lord Anderson of Swansea: At the most senior level it is the visits to Lebanon and elsewhere by Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac. In addition to the problems of co-ordination between the EU and individual national governments, what can you say about the relationship between the United States' effort and the EU on the ground?

  Dr Springborg: The Americans prefer to go it alone. There is very little co-ordination on the ground between the Americans and anyone else, that I can diagnose. I have worked on both sides of the fence. What I have noticed is the European actors, whether acting in the bilateral context or within the EU, tend to keep one another informed. There is a series of joint projects outside the structure of the EU that are arranged on a bilateral and multilateral basis between European countries. There was a regular donors' meeting in which they invest some of their time and their interests.

    The Americans do not engage in that way. There is no attempt to co-ordinate their projects with Europeans or the European Union. I have been engaged in two particular projects on the ground: one in the legal judicial system and one with the parliament. These were American projects that were bracketed on either side by European projects and there was no attempt to integrate sequentially the two activities. Substantial amounts of money, in excess of US$20 million, were being spent but absolutely no connection whatsoever between the activities. At the highest level the Americans tend to pursue matters independently and that translates into activities on the ground that are seen within very much a relationship between America, Israel and Palestine, not between America and the other donors who are engaged.

  Q138  Chairman: The other aspect of co-ordination and coherence is between the various different presences of the EU in the area, the special representative, the Commission delegation, the heads of ESDP missions. How well do you feel they are co-ordinated and how coherent are they?

  Dr Youngs: In terms of overall co-ordination I would reiterate the same points. All I can say on the special representative is that the general impression seems to be that he has succeeded in gaining quite a positive reputation and that he has been influential, particularly in situations of micro-conflict, release of hostages and these kinds of issues. That is where his influence has been felt most significantly. I do not think the presence of a special representative has translated into any broader political leverage on the part of the EU. That is a common situation with the EU's various special representatives around the world in various conflict situations. One could argue the fact that they do have a fairly low profile politically is part of what enables them to play that low profile role rather successfully. I do think the situation exists where at present the special representative is seen as being another European actor within a rather crowded field of different European actors rather than being the single representative of the European Union on the ground.

  Q139  Lord Swinfen: I was wondering whether you thought that the special representative did have sufficient legal authority, whether he had the relevant experience and whether he had the political credibility to achieve what the EU is asking him to do.

  Dr Youngs: Personally I would argue that I am not sure it is a question of his formal competences or political experience; it is more the judgment that working at a low profile level can be most productive compounded by the need to take care to make sure that nothing is done that contravenes the political will of any European government. I think that is again common to the situation within which special representatives have to work in many different conflict situations.

  Chairman: Can we move on to the impact of European instruments.

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