RAMALLAH, April 27, 2015 (WAFA) – The 2014 European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) progress report for Palestine, published Monday, called for organizing free and fair presidential and legislative elections across Palestine.
The report, submitted by EU Representative to Palestine, John Gatt-Rutter, to Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad Al Malki during a Ramallah even on Monday, also called for advancing intra-Palestinian reconciliation in line with the principles set out by President Abbas on 4 May 2011, as well the resumption of full governmental responsibility in Gaza.
The report on Palestine underlines key developments and reform efforts in 2014 and makes recommendations for the year to come.
“Palestinians faced exceptional challenges in 2014 namely the suffering and destruction caused by the summer conflict in Gaza, the breakdown in peace negotiations in early 2014, and increased tensions across the West Bank including in East Jerusalem,” said the EU Representative John Gatt-Rutter.
“We have witnessed the formation of the Palestinian National consensus government that we welcomed. However, unfortunately to-date this government is still unable to assume its full responsibilities in Gaza,” he added.
“Palestinian civil society in the West Bank still enjoys a relatively positive environment but there has been a shrinking of democratic space with complaints of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Now after Palestine acceded to a number of international human rights conventions, it is important to focus now on the implementation of the commitments contained in these agreements.”
The report describes all reforms initiated, carried out successfully, or delayed during 2014 in the different areas of cooperation between the EU and Palestine.
With over 2,100 Palestinian and 71 Israeli casualties during 50 days of hostilities, the conflict was the third and most deadly conflict in Gaza in the last six years, the report says. “The formation of the National Consensus Government was expected to foster the necessary harmonization of legislation between Gaza and the West Bank, and the unification of their respective legal systems.”
However, according to the report, there were no tangible developments in this regard. “The Palestinian economy, which has been slowing down since 2013, entered recession in 2014, due in part to the negative effects of the conflict in Gaza.”
The restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation, particularly in Area C, remained the biggest obstacle to Palestinian socio-economic development, the EU report said. These restrictions included the periodic with-holding of customs and tax revenues by the Israeli authorities.
“Human rights issues continued to be a matter of concern, despite some limited progress, such as the amendment of the Penal Code on the issue of honor killing and the accession of Palestine to a number of international conventions.
‘In the West Bank, despite a relatively positive environment, there has been a shrinking of democratic space with complaints of arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, as well as reported violations of freedom of expression (undue pressure on journalists) and assembly (violent dispersion of demonstrators).”
The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy first published the annual “neighborhood package” on 25 March 2015, and included progress reports on 16 of EU’s closest neighbors.