|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.35, 27.9.01, p2|
FORMER commissioner Willy De Clercq and four MEPs have criticised external relations chief Chris Patten for displaying "scandalous" complacency about the causes of terrorism.
In a letter written before the attacks on America, but not made public at the time, the group warns that the Commission's handling of aid to the Palestinian territories could be inadvertently encouraging terrorist action.
Writing to Commission President Romano Prodi, they express their "profound indignation" over comments which Patten, currently at the forefront of the EU's attempts to build a global alliance against terrorism, made at a meeting of the Parliament on 4 September.
When questioned on the alleged misappropriation of European funds in the education system, Patten is reported to have declared: "The schoolbooks are not going to change the tragic reality of daily life in the Palestinian territories or in the Palestinian camps."
His comments were seized upon by De Clercq, fellow Belgian Frédérique Ries, France's François Zimeray, Italy's Oliver Dupuis and Rijk van Dam of the Netherlands.
"Apart from the fact that it tries to minimise the impact of these misappropriations, this affirmation seems to us to be scandalous in itself. It is precisely because hate towards Jews has been printed in the minds that so many young Palestinian people are today candidates for suicide attacks," they write.
"We think, and all of European history bears witness to this, that it is by education that humanity progresses and peace advances." The letter continues: "Even more serious, the Commissioner...tried to justify the unjustifiable" by saying 'it can't be very easy for a teacher in the camps to teach children tolerance and conscience when, when they leave the camp in the evening, they see the tanks, the guns and hails of stones'.
"Thus for Mr Patten, the context of violence would excuse ideas being instilled, which would bring anyone in Europe a condemnation for racial hatred and revisionism," they add.
The MEPs and De Clercq, the respected elder statesman of Belgian politics who himself served as external relations commissioner from 1985-89, also accuse Patten of giving "indirect, evasive answers to precise questions" and take him to task for stating: 'I do not think it opportune that members of this Chamber give the impression that we do not spend the money of the European taxpayer correctly.'
"Parliamentarians are legitimately enquiring into the utilisation of the funds allocated by the Commission...and therefore the taxpayer," say the MEPs.
The letter to Prodi is the latest development in a simmering row between the Commission and elements in the Parliament over funding to the West Bank and Gaza.
In April, European Voice reported how some MEPs believed EU money could have been used to pay for anti-Semitic text books used in Palestinian schools.
The Commission vigorously denied the claim, saying it does not provide cash for books, although it does help support Palestinian schools and pay teachers' wages.
Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands have helped fund the printing and distribution of books but insist these are a marked improvement over the Jordanian and Egyptian teaching materials which they are intended to replace.
Some MEPs though say the Commission does not do enough to prevent the schools it supports from becoming hotbeds of anti-Jewish feeling. One German MEP, Armin Laschet, said the books he had seen reminded him of hate propaganda published under the Nazi regime.
Patten, currently touring the Middle East with Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel and High Representative Javier Solana in a bid to build support for a global fight against terrorism, was not available for comment.
His spokesman has previously said the Commission does all it can to ensure aid cash is spent on propagating peace and not hate but that it is unrealistic to expect the institution to have total control over the day-to-day teaching which takes place in Palestinian schools.
Former Commissioner Willy de Clercq and four MEPs have criticised External Relations chief Chris Patten for displaying 'scandalous' complacency about the causes of terrorism. In a letter written before the attacks on America, but not made public at the time, the group warns that the Commission's handling of aid to the Palestinian territories could be inadvertently encouraging terrorist action.
|Countries / Regions||Middle East|