Brussels, 7th March 2003 - The European Commission today approved a contribution of €57.75 million for the year 2003 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The EU funds will provide support to the education, health, relief and social programmes of the UNRWA for registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The decision to contribute €57.75 million to the UNRWA General Fund for the year 2003 has been taken in the context of the Framework Convention between the EU and UNRWA, which was signed on 26th September 2002, providing €237 million support for refugees in the countries in the Middle East for the period 2002-2005. UNWRA provides education, health, and relief and social services to 3.9 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The EU's continuing support to UNRWA is an essential element of the EU strategy for the Middle-East Peace Process. One of the key elements of this strategy is to confirm to the Palestinian side that the refugee issue is on the agenda of the international community, and ensure that it will not be forgotten during final status negotiations. The proposed EU-funded operation directly addresses the problems of providing adequate services in the refugee camps.
The present Commission decision takes into consideration the support UNRWA is receiving from the international community, including EU Member States but also takes into account the increased burden on UNRWA imposed by the ongoing crisis, the increase of the Palestinian refugee population, and cost inflation due to higher operational charges related to the security regime enforced by the Israeli authorities.