EU moves towards sanctions against Hamas financers and extremist Israeli settlers

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says sanctions could see violent settlers issued with travel bans

The EU has agreed to move towards sanctioning people who give financial support to Hamas, and has asked its foreign affairs chief to draw up a list of extremist Israeli settlers to be sanctioned over violence towards Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

Speaking at the conclusion of a two day European Council summit in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU would ask the High Representative on Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell to draw up a list of violent settlers “who would be banned then from travelling to Europe” although he said there is “still some work to be done on that.”

Mr Borrell’s plan will then go to EU foreign ministers, Mr Varadkar said.

The move comes after British foreign secretary David Cameron said this week that those responsible for settler violence against Palestinians would be banned from entering Britain.


Speaking on Friday morning on the second day of the European Council summit in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said he wanted to see the EU use its economic and political power to “insist” on a two-state solution in the Middle East.

EU leaders failed to change their stance on the war in the Middle East, at a time when Israel is maintaining its offensive on Gaza in spite of growing international calls for a ceasefire. Despite a majority of EU countries wanting a humanitarian ceasefire, a small blocking minority of countries prevented such a call at the conclusion of the summit.

“Foreign policy matters are done on the basis of consensus or unanimity. The majority of EU countries are now calling for a ceasefire, that’s very clear from the UN vote the other day, but there are one or two who are not because they believe that it would prevent Israel from pursuing Hamas terrorists,” Mr Varadkar said.

“I don’t agree with that interpretation. You can pursue terrorists without engaging in the kind of war and destruction that Israel is engaging in at the moment.

“I think we will have strong language on human rights and on what’s happening in the West Bank as well, which is unacceptable where hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by violent Israeli settlers in an area that is not controlled by Hamas. So there’s no possible justification or excuse for what’s happening there.”

He said the European Union needs to become “more active and more interested” in this issue.

“For a long time now, we have talked the talk when it comes to building a two-state solution in the Middle East but we haven’t really put our political or economic power behind that. I think we should. The European Union should insist on a two-state solution, should work with the Palestinian Authority or a new Palestine leadership perhaps to make that happen, but also really pressurise Israel and say that their failure to allow the Palestinians to have their own state is going to affect the relationship between Israel and the EU into the future. It’s not going to be back to the way it was before.”

Separately, the Taoiseach confirmed that EU leaders failed to agree a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine and a renegotiation of the EU budget, despite talks running until after 2am on Thursday night, and despite an earlier breakthrough on beginning accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova.

“We couldn’t get agreement on the budget,” Mr Varadkar said. “So that’s in relation to the extra money we need for Ukraine but also for other issues such as cracking down on illegal immigration. We weren’t able to agree the money for that unfortunately. It is going to require another meeting mostly likely in the new year.

“It’s disappointing. We got to a text that 26 member states could live with and one could not,” he said, speaking about Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who opposed the move. “I can’t speak on behalf of Hungary and I’m not going to but I do know that it’s not always possible to solve everything in one meeting and some time and space over the Christmas period might help.”

Asked about migration issues domestically, Mr Varadkar urged asylum seekers who have found accommodation abroad not to come to Ireland as the State cannot guarantee accommodation.

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Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times