BRUSSELS, 2nd March, 2016 (WAM) ) — The European Commission has approved a 252.5 million Euro assistance package supporting the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian refugees. It is the first part of the EU’s 2016 annual support package in favour of Palestine.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, said, “The European Union renews its concrete commitment to the Palestinians. Through this package, the EU supports the daily lives of Palestinians in the fields of education and health, protecting the poorest families and also providing the Palestinian refugees with access to essential services. These are tangible steps on the ground that can improve the lives of Palestinian people. But these steps are not enough; Palestinian institutions must continue to grow stronger, become more transparent, more accountable and more democratic. Viable and inclusive institutions, based on respect for the rule of law and human rights, are crucial in view of the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State. Because what we want to achieve is the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State living side by side, in peace and security, with the State of Israel and other neighbours.”

The Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said, “The EU remains firm in its commitment to Palestinians and actively supports a two-state solution. Our assistance to ensure the functioning of the Palestinian Authority and to support vulnerable Palestinian groups, including Palestinian refugees, is a concrete example of this commitment. Let me also thank all EU Member States for their continued backing of EU programmes for this troubled region, which have proved effective.” Within this package, 170.5 million Euros will be channelled directly to the Palestinian Authority. Through these funds, the EU will support the Palestinian Authority in delivering health and education services, protecting the poorest families and providing financial assistance to the hospitals in East Jerusalem.

The remaining 82 million will be a contribution to the Programme Budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Near East, UNRWA, which provides essential services for Palestinian refugees across the region. This support aims at offering improved access to essential public services and increased livelihood opportunities to the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees.

A second package of measures in favour of the Palestinians will be announced later in the year.

WAM/tfaham/Moran