Your Excellency Madam President Von Der Leyen,
In response to accusations against European Commissioner for Neighborhood & Enlargement, Mr Várhelyi, and calls for his resignation, we would like to make the following statement.
Following the horrific and inhumane terror attacks against civilians in Israel on 7 October, which shocked the whole world, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi posted on social media the decision for urgent review of the entire Palestinian development portfolio, on 9 October 2023. Hundreds of innocent women, children and elderly people were killed in terrifying circumstances or taken as hostages.
The Commissioner is accused of “offense to EU’s institutions and their democratic functioning”, by claiming that his “actions undermine not only the image of our institutions, but the trust that EU citizens put in the Commission”. Whilst, in fact, his actions are the ones defending and protecting both our fundamental values and moral compass, and also vis-a-vis trust by EU citizens.
Antisemitic attacks and calls to harm Jewish people have risen by 1200% here in Europe and both national governments and EU institutions have to take action. These are staggering and deeply distressing numbers.
The announcement by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi was particularly welcomed by all our communities, as he very correctly stated “there can be no business as usual”. “The scale of terror and brutality… is a turning point” and it has to be.
Germany review of Palestinian development aid
On 8 October, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, H.E. Ms Svenja Schulze, announced that the “attacks on Israel mark a terrible fracture”. “We will now review our entire engagement for the Palestinian territories.”
Austria development aid suspended
On the 9th of October, prior to the Commissioner’s post, the Austrian Minister for Foreign
Affairs, H.E. Mr Alexander Schallenberg announced that “We will put all payments of Austrian development cooperation on hold” and sharply criticised states that refuse to classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation.
Sweden’s aid to Palestine suspended
On 10 October, Sweden Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, H.E. Mr Johan Forssell, stated, “We have a new situation after the 7th of October”. “Our decision today is that Sweden will … pause development aid to Palestine until further notice.”
Denmark development aid on hold
The same day, Denmark Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy, H.E.
Mr Dan Jørgensen, confirmed that Danish development assistance to Palestine will be placed “on hold”. “Unacceptable acts, terrorism and aggression of the worst kind have happened, and we must be naturally be very sure that Danish money is not indirectly supporting that”.
The social media post by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi was made after a truly unprecedented and deadly terrorist massacre. It followed the lead of a number of countries and the strong condemnation of the terror attacks by world leaders. Both national governments and EU institutions share very legitimate concerns as Hamas has turned agricultural and irrigation equipment, which was paid by European funds, into weapons to attack civilians, and used cement that was meant for living quarters to build death tunnels to expand its terror activities.
As Jewish organisations which represent thousands of European citizens, we believe the accusations against Commissioner Várhelyi are politically motivated and display a breathtaking and appalling insensitivity to the horrendous and barbaric loss of human life.
At a truly unprecedented time, when Europe must be united against terrorism, it is nothing less than shameful that there exist those who prefer instead to try and score cheap political points on the graves of the dead and on the hundreds of hostages still in terrorist captivity.
Were a reminder needed of what we are all up against, last night the same type of terrorism struck the heart of Europe in Brussels claiming two utterly innocent lives, this follows, of course, the brutal murder of a teacher in Arras, France.
Commissioner Varheyli enjoys the full and unyielding support of European Jewry for his noble stand, a stand that sadly is possessed by far too few political leaders in the face of atrocity, barbarism and an assault on the very European values that we all hold so dear to our hearts.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin Founder and Chairman European Jewish Association
Joël Mergui Chairman of EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board President of Consistoire of Paris, France President of European Centre of Judaism
Baroness Régine Suchowolski – Sluszny EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairwoman for Holocaust Remembrance and President of Forum of Jewish Organisations, Belgium
Ellen Van Praagh-van Aspert EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairwoman for Equity and Diversity, and President of IPOR Jewish Communities, The Netherlands
Andrew Cohen FCA EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairman for UK President, Federation of Synagogues, UK
Riccardo Pacifici EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairman for Italy and Jewish Heritage
Alexander Benjamin EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairman for Advocacy, European Jewish Association
Gabriel Senderowicz Mold EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Member
EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Member Chairman of Board of The Social & Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (TSKZ) Portugal
Yaron Zeloof EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Member President of the Jewish Community of Cyprus