Statement by President von der Leyen with Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh

© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Ursula von der Leyen© European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service, Ursula von der Leyen

Thank you very much, dear Prime Minister, for welcoming me here in Ramallah. First about our support, indeed, to Palestine. For many years now, the European Union has been supporting Palestine and the Palestinian people. As Team Europe, we are the largest donor in Palestine, with around EUR 600 million per year. And indeed now, I am very glad to announce that the EU funds for 2021 can be disbursed rapidly. All the difficulties are gone. We have made clear that the disbursement will take place. So I am happy to announce that here today together with you.

It is important to have this EU funding to support the people, especially the most vulnerable. It also helps create the right conditions for economic opportunities. That is what we, together, should be working on. For example, by enabling clean water and reliable energy supply, and many other topics that we could think of working on together. Palestine now slowly exits the pandemic, but it suffers the consequences of the next crisis that we have, and that is the Russian war against Ukraine.

The Russian aggression has a devastating impact on food prices and on energy supply. And indeed, Palestine is dependent on imports of Ukrainian cereals – like many other vulnerable countries in the world, too. And as Russia is blocking the export from wheat from Ukraine via the Black Sea, the situation is very difficult right now. So we have to work on that topic. The food crisis is one of the main topics to discuss, how to support the vulnerable countries but also how to, over time, increase their own capacity – for example Palestine’s own capacity – to grow the food themselves that is necessary, the wheat that is necessary. At the moment being, we have mobilised EUR 25 million to improve the food security here in Palestine. But this is the short-term help, immediate help that is necessary. I think that we also have to discuss the mid- and long-term activities to really improve this, on the one hand, food dependency that has to decrease, and to improve the own capacity to grow the food that is necessary.

Of course, we will also discuss the important peace process. We welcome all efforts towards peace and remain committed to a negotiated two-state solution. A solution that gives the Palestinian people a perspective. This is so important. An independent, democratic and viable Palestine existing side by side in peace with Israel.

And finally, I wish to convey, dear Prime Minister, sincere regret for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh. The EU strongly condemns the killing of the journalist. And we call for a thorough, independent investigation. Once more, many thanks for welcoming me here. I am very much looking forward to the talks that we are going to have right now. And thank you for receiving me.