Legal Background of the EU-Financed Grant Contracts for External ActionsPublished on Mon Apr 06 2020 - modified on Wed Dec 09 2020
The ELSC provided assistance to the Palestinian NGO network PNGO in finding clarity and a common position about a problematic clause concerning EU sanctions that had newly appeared in EU funding contracts with civil society organisations. There was no clarity about the concrete meaning of this clause, and outrage over the inclusion of seven Palestinian liberation organisations in the EU list of sanctions which is strongly rejected by Palestinian society.
We supported PNGO with an ELSC memo that examines the EU sanctions regime, including its appeals procedure as well as differences to the much broader and even more arbitrary regime of US sanctions. The memo also suggested an interpretation of the clause on “restrictive measures” in EU grant contracts that does not result in new obligations for Palestinian NGOs. At the end of March, the EU issued an official clarification letter which confirms our interpretation and has laid some of the main concerns to rest. Most importantly, the EU clarified that,
“… it is understood that a natural person affiliated to, sympathizing with, or supporting any of the groups or entities mentioned in the EU restrictive lists is not excluded from benefitting from EU-funded activities, unless his/her exact name and surname (confirming his/her identity) corresponds to any of the natural persons on the EU restrictive lists.”
Since no Palestinian individual is on the EU sanctions list, the above means that NGOs are not required to screen the political affiliation of individuals participating in their EU funded activities (i.e., the so-called “vetting”, a form of spying that is required under US anti-terrorism financing rules). With this statement, the EU has also taken a clear stand against the relentless campaign of Israel’s government and lobby groups seeking to terminate EU funding by smearing Palestinian NGOs as “guilty of terrorism”, because of the affiliation of individuals among their staff or board with a Palestinian group included in the EU sanctions list.