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    WCC-EAPPI volunteers encourage EU to address Palestine and Israel

    WCC-EAPPI volunteers encourage EU to address Palestine and Israel

    EAPPI volunteers in Brussels, from left to right, Christine Heberlein, Stefanie Gartlacher, Jenn Byrne and Maria Lundin. © Anne-Marie Vuignier

    07 November 2014

    Volunteers for the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) have urged the European Union (EU) to take more effective actions against the illegal settlements, demolitions and forced displacement in the occupied territory controlled by the Israeli authorities.

    The nine volunteers, who previously have lived in Palestine and Israel as part of the WCC’s EAPPI programme, shared these concerns in meetings with EU officials. The meetings took place in Brussels, Belgium from 2 to 6 November.

    These volunteers come from Poland, Germany, the UK, Ireland, France, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. The group included Stefanie Gartlacher, Jenn Byrne, Maria Lundin, Michaela Whitton, Denis Costil, Christine Heberlein, Sandra Sych and Jennifer van Werkhoven.

    The discussions between the EAPPI volunteers and EU officials focused on the impact of the Israeli plan for the relocation of 12,500 Bedouins in the administrative “Area C” including the E1 region, and new projects of settlement expansion around and in East Jerusalem including Ghivat Hamatos and Har Homa.

    Such developments, the volunteers said, show a clear violation of the EU “red lines” as they were laid down in the Foreign Affairs Council Conclusion of 22 July and underline the illegality of settlements. The EU believes that crossing of the “red lines” by Israel seriously jeopardizes the possibility of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state including East Jerusalem, hampering a just and peaceful solution.

    The EAPPI volunteers brought information from the ground to the EU officials, alerting them to the urgency of the situation. They encouraged the EU to match its words with deeds to make sure that steps endangering a peaceful solution for Israel and Palestine are not fraught.

    In Brussels the volunteers met with some 60 officials, including parliamentarians from a wide spectrum of political affiliations, as well as permanent representatives to the EU from Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Ireland, Finland and Sweden. They had meetings with political advisors to the EU Parliament and civil servants working in the EU External Action Service, the office of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the EU Commission on Development and Cooperation (DEVCO) and Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

    “Our experiences of living in Palestine and Israel were valued by the EU officials,” said Stefanie Gartlacher from Austria. “We shared updates and significant information with them. Now it is up to the officials to make use of our experiences and use the recommendations we made.”

    “We were encouraged to hear the interest from the officials in getting regular information and in compilation of reports made from first-hand accounts in the field,” Gartlacher added.

    More information on Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel