VP/HR – Gaza’s Rafah crossing and smuggling of materials

It has been reported in the press that the EU is one of the parties which has the right to monitor the Rafah crossing in Gaza to ensure that elicit materials, such as weapons, do not make it through to Hamas. In the event that elicit materials are found, what action would the EU take against the Hamas/Gaza authorities?

Answer given by High Representative/Vice-President Ashton on behalf of the Commission

According to the Agreement of Movement and Access (AMA) signed in 2005 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the mandate of EU‑BAM consists in actively monitoring, verifying and evaluating the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s performance with regard to the implementation of the Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing (APRC), acting with authority to ensure that the PA complies with all the applicable rules and regulations concerning the RCP and the terms of the Agreed Principles for Rafah Crossing (APRC). According to the mandate, EU‑BAM shall also contribute to Palestinian capacity building in all aspects of border control and customs operation.

The objectives of EU‑BAM are to contribute to confidence building between the parties, contribute to building institutional capacity in the PA to ensure effective border control and surveillance and to improve transnational cooperation on border management.

According to the AMA, in any case of doubt about the compliance with the applicable rules and regulation of the border guard or customs’ official, EU‑BAM shall require the re-examination and re-assessment of any passenger, luggage, vehicle or consignment of goods on which customs duty or other revenue collected at importation has already been assessed and collected. In case the EU‑BAM remains unsatisfied with the performance of the checks, it shall refer up the PA management chain.

It is to be noted that Article 7 of the Agreed Arrangement on the European Union Border Assistance Mission at the Rafah Crossing Point on the Gaza-Egypt border, states that EU‑BAM has no authority to enforce the laws of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and they will refrain from any action or activity incompatible with the nature of their duties.

However, it has to be underlined that since June 2006, the Rafah Crossing Point has been closed for normal operations and since June 2007, following political developments in the region, EU‑BAM has temporarily suspended operations.

So far none of the stakeholders has formally requested the EU to reactivate the mission. However, EU‑BAM has a rapid redeployment plan in case political and security conditions would allow.

The Foreign Affairs Council on 23 May 2011 reconfirmed its readiness to reactivate EU‑BAM, once political and security conditions allow. On 26 May 2011 the Council extended the mission’s mandate until 31 December 2011.