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When the EU Funds Hate

The bloc’s humanitarian pietism, coupled with opaque budgeting and lax vetting of grant applicants, has opened a window of opportunity for Islamist groups.

Andreas Rieger’s upbringing foretold the opposite of radicalism.

The son of a CDU alderman in rural Baden-Württemberg, he was brought up Catholic, read law in Freiburg and seemed destined to join the ranks of Germany’s soft-spoken judicial establishment—until a visit to Granada, Spain, in 1990.

Lured by Ian Dallas, the Scot-born founder of the worldwide Sufi sect Murabitun, Rieger returned to Germany a Muslim convert, taking the middle-name “Abu Bakr” after the prophet’s father-in-law and first caliph. As a legal clerk, Rieger was close to the Kalifstaat, a Turkish network advocating the Islamist takeover of that country from its base in Cologne, where Rieger gave a Jew-baiting speech in 1993 that haunts his public persona since: “like the Turks, we Germans have often fought a good cause, though I admit that my grandfathers did not face up to our common enemy thoroughly enough.”

Rieger has since admittedly toned down the anti-Semitism in favor of a blander, almost humanistic pitch to Muslim minorities “otherized” in the West, but German authorities can’t be fooled as to his true colors. In 2008, the country’s leading intelligence agency documented his links to Islamist groups, while researchers at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research have traced the NGO he founded in 2005, the European Muslim Union, to a network of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated fronts. That didn’t stop the EMU from receiving €90,368 in grant money from the European Commission in 2019 alone.

Augmenting the role of faith spokesman with a bid to build bridges between Europe and the Islamic world has proved a more insidious subterfuge. At odds with the Enlightenment’s dogmatic secularism, Rieger was allegedly inspired to set up the Weimar Institute for Spiritual Issues and Contemporary History by the poet Goethe’s acquaintance with Arabic literature and the Quran. Though he denies involvement in the lofty-named group at the time it received E.U. funds, regional authorities in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have identified it as an Islamist hotspot and are monitoring the mosque it operates in Straslund.

Rieger’s journey from the spotlight of Germany’s security apparatus to the receiving end of E.U. largesse is a familiar one. Even once identified by national authorities as hate-prone, Islamist groups camouflaged as NGOs can cash in on the E.U.’s channeling of taxpayer money into a seldom monitored humanitarian agenda, at cross-purposes with the bloc’s ramping up of efforts to stem radicalization. It took the Commission updating its so-called Financial Transparency System last summer with grantmaking activities throughout 2019 for the loophole to come into focus, though radical groups may have been shrewdly exploiting the windfall for much longer. Those crunching the numbers and sounding the alarm are both right-wing E.U. lawmakers and budget committee higher-ups from the Parliament’s mainstream groupings, fearless reporters such as Die Welt’s Frederick Schindler, advocacies like the American Jewish Committee, and NGO watchdogs.

Even without the supple “NGO” category duping grant appropriators, the financial spoils ripe for capture by actors afoul of E.U. policies and values is imputable to ideological bias, bureaucratic insulation, or mere naivety. Though it styles itself an impartial advocate for a peaceful, two-state solution, all three factors seem at work in the E.U.’s support for the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Last year, the Commission tasked the Georg Eckert Institute with auditing the content of Palestinian K-12 textbooks the E.U. provides through its PEGASE program, a direct aid channel funding the P.A.’s payroll and other spending toplines. A thorough scan of 156 texts and 16 teachers’ guidebooks issued between 2017 and 2019, the 200-page report, kept under wraps until last week, makes for a chilling contrast to the E.U.’s stated aims in the Middle East. On the European taxpayer’s dime, Palestinian children are taught to demonize Jews, glorify terrorists, and substantiate Newton’s Second Law with depictions of Palestinians casting slingshots at Israeli soldiers. Even the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which eschews serving in the PA, has gotten dangerously close to the EU’s firehose of “humanitarian aid” into the West Bank, despite being designated by the bloc as terrorist. As much as €5.8 million flowed to PFLP-linked groups in 2019 alone, per NGO Monitor.

Much of the problem is traceable to the Commission’s humanitarian aid directorate (DG Echo), seemingly morphing into an expedient ruse for self-described charities to launder their liaisons to Muslim fanatics. Islamic Relief Worldwide received over half a million euros in 2019 alone from DG Echo for earthquake and flood response programs across the Arab world, even after several member states invoked its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Hezbollah to cut ties and claw back funding. The past year saw resignations among the trustees, board, and management over anti-Semitic comments and terror apologetics, and yet the network’s German branch still featured in DG Echo’s “humanitarian partners” list for 2021-2027. The European Network Against Racism, whose head Michaël Privot was in the Brotherhood until 2008, received €1,156,162 and was also redrafted.

Given their compulsion to dodge charges of Islamophobia at all costs, it may take more flagrant cases of negligent misallocation for the Eurocracy to wake up to the pattern. Until then, hate-mongers of all stripes looking to sanitize their image can keep flocking to Brussels’s woke-humanitarian complex.

Jorge González-Gallarza (@JorgeGGallarza) is a visiting fellow at Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) and the co-host of the Uncommon Decency podcast on Europe.