Saturday, January 05, 2008

EU-BAM responds

The EU-BAM press and public relations officer has responded to my inquiry:
Dear (Elder, I used a fake name),

Thanks for your interest in EUBAM and to get in touch with us,

As you know and despite the RCP being closed since the 9th of June, the European Union decided to maintain the European Union Border Assistance Mission - Rafah (EUBAM) in the area. Due to the prevailing political and security situation the Mission has been downsizing even if it maintains its full operational capacity. At present moment EUBAM strength is a total of 42 composed by the 34 International staff from 17 different EU states members and 8 locally contracted staff members. In June 2007 the Mission had 96 Mission members in total.

Since the beginning of the Mission in November 2005 we have had our Headquarters in Ashkelon is still in here where the Mission is based and from we continue working. Our task nowadays consists in looked at ways to increase further the EU's support to the Palestinian Authority, and in particular in helping to build up an effective Palestinian civilian and border police force. As you know the EU is playing an important role in training and mentoring the Palestinian police and this is an essential element in developing the structures of a Palestinian state.

About the annual budget I’m afraid that this is not public information, but I can tell you that part of it is paid for each Member State . In this way part of my salary is paid by Spain and in this way it differs from my colleague’s salary.

Concerning the Hajj pilgrims who traveled trough Rafah it is obvious that is not our task to condemn any action in the area. In this regards I would like to remind you that our Mission is an operational one and all policy decisions are made in Brussels . I take the opportunity as well to inform you that we are not an executive Mission and the Rafah Agreement was signed between the EU the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority but not by Egypt .

I hope that this information will be useful for you if not, please feel free to contact me at any time.

About the late response and as you can probably understand most of the Mission member including myself belong to the catholic tradition and we have been celebrating Christmas and New Year with our families. In this respect I take the opportunity to wish you a happy New Year.

With my best regards,

Maria Telleria
Press & Public Information Officer
EU BAM Rafah
Mobile: +972-(0)54/2247250
Fax: +972-(0)8/6845740
E-mail: maria.telleria@eubam-rafah.org
Visiting address: Dan Gardens Ashkelon Hotel, Ashkelon
I wasn't aware that Egypt was not part of the agreement, that this means that Egypt and Hamas can completely go around the EU's and international community's wishes for Rafah. It is interesting that the EU, so keenly interested in a Palestinian Arab state, seems to have nothing to say about this.

UPDATE: According to a report in London Al-Quds al-Arabi, Israel has written letters to Washington and the EU requesting taking over Rafah again and giving the EU observers control again over people crossing over.