Summary: 5 January 2009, Brussels – An EU Delegation to the Middle East led by the Czech EU Presidency aims to negotiate on humanitarian aid for inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.
The President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council and Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, Karel Schwarzenberg, is heading the EU delegation bound for the Middle East. One of the main objectives of this mission is to find a way to help the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip in the current distressing humanitarian situation.
The Czech Presidency has been putting great emphasis on the need to solve the humanitarian situation of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip from the very beginning – it has been in close contact with the European Commission, more specifically with the cabinet of Commissioner Louis Michel, from the first minutes of the new year. Consequently, the President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Karel Schwarzenberg, proposed that the European Commission should promptly mobilise 3 million euro, and has welcomed the announcement made by the Commission this morning, confirming the release of this sum.
“It is now our task to make sure that EU aid reaches the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, that the border crossings are open and that the aid does not disappear somewhere along the way,” said Karel Schwarzenberg. The Czech Foreign Minister also announced that the Czech Republic released 5 million CZK on Friday to help the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and that another release is expected in the near future. In the first stage, the Czech aid will be provided via the United Nations, more precisely UNRWA, mainly to finance the provision of food and housing repairs.
The EU mission heading for Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan, also aims to establish a dialogue with the partners of the European Union in the Middle East area and to assess the current situation and possible ways of re-establishing a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
The mission is also a way to coordinate and unify the action of the EU mechanisms – the Presidency, the European Commission and the European Council.
The European Commission will be represented by the Commissioner in charge of External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, will also take part in the delegation. Other members of the delegation include the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, representing the following Presidency, and the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, invited by the Czech Presidency in order to ensure a smooth transition between the Presidencies.
Programme of the Journey (as of 5 January)
The delegation is expected to take part in the following meetings:
4 January 2009