The European Union (EU) leadership is aiming to align its messaging regarding the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. After days of mixed messages from different EU representatives, leaders of the 27-nation bloc are scheduled to hold a videoconference to formulate a coherent statement.
An anonymous EU official stated, “We felt the need to bring some order,” highlighting the pressing need for clarity in the EU’s position.
Commission Chief’s Controversial Trip
Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission Chief, had recently visited Israel to express the EU’s support for Israel’s right to self-defense. Her statement lacked the cautionary tone that other Western leaders, including the EU’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, had been emphasizing about Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law.
Her solo venture into foreign policy without prior consultation with member nations was not well-received by several EU governments. They emphasized that foreign affairs decisions fall under the jurisdiction of member states, not the Commission.
Disagreements on Aid Disbursement
Adding to the confusion was Oliver Varhelyi, responsible for EU relations with neighboring countries. Varhelyi announced a freeze on EU development aid to Palestinians following Hamas’s onslaught on Israel. This statement was later modified by the Commission to clarify that while development project payments in West Bank and Gaza might be adjusted, humanitarian aid remains unaffected.
Following the backlash over her comments in Israel, von der Leyen revealed that humanitarian aid to Palestinians would be tripled to 75 million euros. However, this and other individual statements have projected an image of disarray in the EU’s stance on the conflict.
French MEP Nathalie Loiseau expressed confusion over the commission president’s involvement in EU foreign policy. In defense, Commission spokesman Eric Mamer compared von der Leyen’s trip to Israel with her previous visit to war-stricken Ukraine.
Upcoming Diplomatic Discussions
Before the videoconference, EU leaders released a statement condemning Hamas’s “terrorist attacks” and emphasizing the protection of all civilians. This meeting and statement aim to refocus discussions on the situation rather than the EU’s stance.
The leaders will also explore the ramifications of the conflict, including the challenges posed by polarization in European countries and the migration from conflict zones.