Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 260 - 267)



  Q260  Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Carrying on on this point, in turning to the Israeli side of the equation, where one would seem to have a rather weak government which has great difficulty in coming to terms with the way this debate is now moving, do you not think that rather than struggling to get a formal negotiating or dialogue process between Israel and whatever bits of institutions the Palestinians form, we may have to settle for an indirect process in the early stages of working on the political horizons because it is just going to be too difficult to get a weak Israeli Government to talk to the people we would wish them to talk to directly?

  Mr Cooper: That seems to be the way that it is going at the moment. It is very difficult to judge what the Israeli Government is going to do but there is one school of thought which says that the only way out of the weakness for the Israeli Government is actually to do something, otherwise they are doomed. It is almost a matter of personalities when you get to that point. As I understand it, at the moment the Israeli/Palestinian contacts, which are really rather few and far between, are not dealing with the big political issues at all and so Condoleezza Rice has, as we do, contacts with both sides but it remains to be seen how fruitful that is, too.

  Q261  Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Going back to the aid question, I am just interested about Saudi aid going in. One of the great strengths of European aid was that it was going in and being monitored on the corruption point and that was what was giving more confidence, and Salam Fayyad was genuinely trying to clean up the act, but how are the Saudis giving their aid?

  Mr Cooper: I do not know.

  Q262  Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: This is a really important question because this goes back to this whole question of reinforcing corruption or cleaning up corruption and you have got the whole imbalance between Fatah. Of course we encouraged the elections but the fact was the way that Fatah ran its elections it was obviously going to lose because of the use of lists and everything else. We have got a real problem now with on the one hand relying on the Arab states giving aid and the other hand trying to deal with the corruption issue, and there is a real problem with how you run elections.

  Mr Cooper: I was not saying that we were relying on the Arab states giving aid; they just are. Christian, you know more about the Saudi aid than I do.

  Mr Jouret: Just one thing, the Saudis pledged $1 billion for the Palestinians during the Mecca negotiations and we were told last week by the Saudis themselves that it is still somewhere in Saudi Arabia, so they cannot give their money because they cannot go through the normal international financial system. They have a problem and the only solution for them for the moment is to put their money in our Temporary International Mechanism, in our system, but they are a bit reluctant to do so.

  Q263  Lord Chidgey: Can we move on to the institutional dimension on our list of questions. Just picking up on the points that were made earlier about the EU not being a state when we talked about the Quartet and so forth, and some Member States obviously having slightly different perceptions to others, I wonder whether we can tease out how effective the EU's relations and activities have been in supporting the peace process in this context in comparison with the bilateral negotiations of individual states which are obviously now going on in parallel? Do these relations complement each other in a consistent and coherent way or is it the reverse; do they actually hinder the process, while individual Member States perhaps put as a priority their own interests rather than the interests of the EU and the Quartet, or is it the other way round?

  Mr Cooper: I think that in the case of the Israeli/Palestinian question there is a real underlying consensus in the European Union, so I think that it is complementary. Would it be better if there was one single interlocutor? Maybe, but that is not the way the world is. I do not have an impression of efforts by individual Member States undermining the collective effort. There is one case I suppose one could quote which is Syria where the visit that Javier Solana made was on the understanding that he would be (I hope sole but we will see how that works out) the sole but it may turn out to be principal channel of communication to Syria because there have been a large number of rather unco-ordinated visits to Syria and given the difficulty of dealing with Syria, that seemed a rather ineffective way to do business there. For the question of Israel/Palestine, I do not think that there is really a problem except just occasionally when something happens like when there is an election where the Palestinians can find themselves rather overwhelmed with the numbers of European visitors.

  Q264  Lord Chidgey: Is there any evidence at all of attempts being made by the principals in the conflict in the region trying to play one against the other on the bilaterals rather than through the Quartet process?

  Mr Cooper: The principals are very clever people and they know well where the different tendencies lie—

  Q265  Lord Chidgey: Exactly!

  Mr Cooper:—within the European Union, but I am not sure how different that process is from working with the Pentagon against the state department. It is what you do with governments.

  Q266  Lord Hamilton of Epsom: Could I just pursue that a little bit further. If one of the individual countries is talking to one of the countries in the region, are they honour bound and are they actually feeding back what intelligence they gain from that to a central EU point?

  Mr Cooper: I would say on the whole yes. It is not possible to vouch for everything but, for example, Christian sees the French cables from the region and I see the British cables from the region. The Situation Centre under William Shapcott has a number of representatives of the intelligence services. You never know of course whether you are receiving all of the information but I do not feel that there is a whole lot going on that we do not know about.

  Q267  Chairman: Mr Cooper and Mr Jouret, we have come to 11 o'clock and we are expecting the Secretary-General at this time so I think, much as we would like to continue learning from you as we have already a great deal, we probably ought to bring this part of our conversation to an end. Can I say on behalf of the Committee that we have very much appreciated the opportunity, as I think we would have expected, to have learnt a great deal this morning and to get a rather clearer position of how it looks from the centre of the Council Secretariat. Thank you both very much indeed for all your contributions.

  Mr Cooper: We look forward to the report, as always.

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