EU Approves Guidelines to Label Products from Israeli Settlements

BRUSSELES, November 11, 2015 (WAFA) – The European Union formally adopted on Wednesday a notice to label goods originating from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

The European Commission approved, in a meeting in Brussels, adopted “an interpretative notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” reads the preamble of the fact sheet.

The ‘labeling policy’ would distinguish between products made inside Israel within its internationally accepted borders and those made outside, more specifically illegal Israeli settlements within the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights.

“[The interpretative notice] aims to provide Member States, economic operators and consumers with the necessary information on the indication of the origin of products when it comes to products originating in Israeli settlements beyond Israel’s 1967 borders,” explained the commission in the fact sheet, which provided an introduction to the notice and questions and answers.

According to the fact sheet, Israeli settlements’ products would be excluded from preferences and other trade facilitation measures under EU legislation or agreements. “Products originating in Israel benefit from preferential tariff treatment. [Meanwhile], products from Israeli settlements exported into the EU do not benefit from any trade treatment.”

EU stressed that whether the indication of origin is mandatory or not, the information about the origin of settlement products must be correct and not misleading. As a result, the labels need to point out that the product is made in an Israeli settlement and not just the geographical origin.

The EU legislation on indication of origin would mean that the phrase ‘Made in Israel’ is to be only used for Israeli products. The commission debated that the use of ‘Made in Israel’ for Israeli settlements’ products as well would “mislead the consumer and therefore is inconsistent with existing EU legislation.”

The commission further explained that the approval of this decision was motivated by calls from Member States, the European Parliament and civil society in the EU on issuing guidelines that “would ensure transparency in the information provided to EU consumers as required by EU law.”

The mandatory guidelines on the indication of origin would apply to “fresh fruits and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, poultry, organic products and cosmetics.” However, the voluntary indication of origin would apply inter alia to pre-packaged foodstuffs and the majority of industrial products.

Even though a specific wording was not stipulated, the commission said when labeling products originating in West Bank and Golan Heights’ settlements, the wording ‘from the Golan Heights’ or ‘from the West Bank’ is not acceptable; “the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added.”

However, the commission said adding the words ‘Israeli settlement’ between brackets such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ is acceptable as long as the true origins of the product are  made clear to the public.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry hailed the decision as “a good step toward EU Members States’ compliance with the resolutions of international legitimacy and international law stipulating that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip are Palestinian territories that have been occupied by Israel since 1967.”

The Ministry said the move should be followed by EU resolutions that would confront Israeli settlement construction and salvage the two-state solution.

On the other hand, the Israeli Foreign Ministry slammed in a press statement the commission’s decision as “akin to a boycott of Israel” and “an unusual and discriminatory step drawn from the realm of boycotts.” Meanwhile, the Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked went even further, describing the decision as “anti-Israel and anti-Jewish”.

Despite the Israeli sides’ comments, the commission affirmed in the fact sheet that “the EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel.”

It explained, “The EU does not intend to impose any boycott on Israeli exports from the settlements. The Commission will only help Member States to apply already existing EU legislation.”

To the EU commission labeling Israeli settlements’ products in a way that indicates the correct origin “will give consumers the possibility to make an informed choice”.