Thursday, January 03, 2008

What does EU-BAM do?

I've posted a bit about EU-BAM Rafah, the EU program to monitor the Rafah crossings. Its website has no press releases since September when it announced:
EUBAM Rafah maintains its full operational capability despite the closure of Rafah Crossing Point since 9 June 2007.

In remarks to journalists after the meeting Mr. Solana congratulated mission members for their excellent and important work which constitutes an essential aspect of the EU's support to the Palestinian Authority.

I have been wondering what exactly these people are doing. I dug up one other document on the EU website from December concerning their current activities; mostly they are now helping out another EU group called EU-COPPS.

And as of mid-November, they were still hiring.

It would be reasonable to get more details about this group that clearly has not done anything related to its mission for six months now, especially since there are multiple employees still on the EU payroll. So I emailed both the public relations head and deputy:

I am a blogger, following the news stories of Palestinians crossing the Rafah border in both directions since Hamas took over Gaza. My understanding from your website press release in July was that EUBAM has not completely given up on monitoring Rafah and keeps observers in the area. But I have been struck that there has been no official EUBAM comment on the reported violations of the original Rafah agreements between Israel, the EU, the PA and Egypt.

Specifically, I am referring to the Hajj pilgrims who traveled through Rafah to Egypt in mid-December, the possibility that they will return (since confirmed) through the same crossing (perhaps including known terrorists and millions of dollars,) as well as the reported movement of over a hundred members of Hamas and other militant groups from Egypt to Gaza through Rafah in September and October.

Is there any official EU-BAM comment on these activities? Are they condemned? In light of these activities, why are the observers still in the area? How many observers are there and who pays their salaries while they are waiting to re-deploy?

How many EU-BAM employees are there? What is the annual budget? Where are the EU-BAM employees still deployed in the Middle East staying?

Thank you very much for any response you can give.
I first emailed them on Sunday, and then twice more. The deputy email address bounces back. The main public relations person named Maria Telleria, who is living in the Dan Gardens Ashkelon Hotel on the Mediterranean, has not responded after repeated attempts. (Her number is 972 (0) 542 247 250.)

Anyone out there want to give it a try?