EU leaders to meet as bloc struggles for united message on Israel-Hamas war

European leaders are expected to unify their stance following days of mixed messages on the conflict.

European Council President Charles Michel
European Council President Charles Michel has said it is of utmost importance that the Council agree a common position on the Israel-Hamas war [File: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP Photo]

European Union leaders are set to meet to decide on a united message on the ongoing Israel-Hamas war after days of mixed messages.

In the emergency video conference on Tuesday, the EU leaders will discuss their response to the conflict after confusing and sometimes contradictory messaging that has raised tensions within the bloc.

“It is of utmost importance that the European Council … sets our common position and establishes a clear unified course of action that reflects the complexity of the unfolding situation,” European Council President Charles Michel said in a letter inviting leaders to attend the meeting.

Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, travelled to Israel on Friday to tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel has Europe’s backing, a move that generated blowback for appearing to speak for the bloc as a whole.

“Foreign affairs is a matter for member states, it is a matter for the [European] Council,” the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed EU official as saying.

Von der Leyen also faced criticism for not stating that the EU expects Israel to abide by international humanitarian law in its response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks, as other EU leaders did.

EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell last week said Israel’s siege of Gaza “is against international law”, following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Oliver Varhelyi, the commissioner responsible for relations with countries neighbouring the EU, also faced criticism last week for going it alone to announce that a disbursement of EU development aid to Palestinians had been frozen.

Officials later clarified that development projects in Palestinian territories might “need to be adjusted” but humanitarian aid would be unaffected.

Von der Leyen on Monday said the EU would triple humanitarian aid to Palestinians to 75 million euros ($79m).

During their meeting on Tuesday, EU leaders are expected to discuss ways to mitigate the fallout of the war amid fears of regional escalation and a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has placed Gaza under a total blockade and bombarded it with unprecedented air raids in retaliation for Hamas’s attack, the deadliest on Israel in decades.

Israel’s attacks have killed at least 2,808 people and injured more than 10,000 others in the enclave, according to Palestinian officials.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies