Sunday

19th Nov 2017

EU takes aim at Israeli settler products

  • The Golan Heights Winery in Syria lists its address as 'Katzrin, Israel.' Its website says the 'volcanic soil provide[s] excellent drainage .. and water [is] readily available.' (Photo: Ben Roffer)

EU foreign ministers have "warned" Israel they will take a tougher approach to exports originating in illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

The ministers in a statement on Monday (14 May) detailing Israel's long-term campaign to expropriate Palestinian farmers in the West Bank said: "The EU and its member states reaffirm their commitment to fully and effectively implement existing EU legislation and the bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Under EU law settler products are excluded from preferential import tariffs in the 12-year-old EU-Israel association agreement.

Israel is obliged to indicate the originating postcode of each shipment, while member states' customs authorities are to cross-check the information against a list of settlement postcodes to see which tariffs apply.

According to Human Rights Watch's Jerusalem-based analyst Bill Van Esveld, Israeli authorities get around it by coding settlement products under the firms' corporate headquarters in Israel proper or by bundling them together with Israel-proper-origin goods. Meanwhile, the lack of clear product-origin labels makes it hard for European consumers to choose whether or not to buy the items.

"You can find white wine made in the Golan Heights in [leading] supermarkets in Belgium," Stuart Reigeluth, an activist with the Brussels-based NGO the Council for European Palestinian Relations, told EUobserver, referring to Syrian land annexed by Israel in 1981.

According to commission figures, the EU is Israel's number two import destination after the US, buying some €11.6 billion worth of Israeli goods each year.

An EU diplomat told this website the ministers' statement on imports "should be seen as a warning to Israel."

He noted that the "substantially tougher" language in the EU communique was prompted by acceleration in settler activity last year, putting in danger the EU's preferred solution of a separate state for Palestinians alongside Israel.

He added that "the usual suspects" - referring to pro-Israel countries the Czech Republic, Italy and the Netherlands - were joined by Bulgaria and Romania in trying to water down the language at the last minute.

For his part, Irish foreign minister Eamon Gilmore told press after Monday's meeting that Dublin might propose an outright import ban on settler products during its EU presidency in early 2013.

"I think we may have to look at the question of banning products from settlement areas into the EU. We have always resisted the idea of boycotts in relation to Israel. But I think a distinction has to be drawn here between Israel and the settlements," he said, according to the Irish Times.

EU ambassadors based in Ramallah have long advocated a boycott, as well as a visa ban on settler radicals, in internal EU reports. But their ideas never saw the light of day.

Monday's EU communique also reiterated EU support for Israeli security and castigated Palestinian militants for rocket attacks out of Gaza.

The Israeli foreign ministry in a statement published the same day said the EU criticism is "based on a partial, biased and one-sided depiction of realities on the ground." It added that "Israel is committed to the well-being of the Palestinian population."

Opinion

Why EU should reject new Israeli trade pact

By rejecting the so-called ACAA agreement, MEPs could begin to play a mature and constructive role in EU foreign policy in the Arab Spring region.

Agenda

Barroso in Palestine next WEEK

Barroso is making a rare trip to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories next week. But the crisis still dominates events in Europe.

EU to boost Israel trade relations despite settlements row

The EU is today to confirm moves to strengthen economic ties with Israel, facing off criticism that trade conditions should be frozen due to the diplomatic impasse over Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

MEPs ponder how to fight tax havens

After the Paradise Papers brought new revelations about tax dodging across the globe, including in the EU, the European Parliament wonders how to step up the fight.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse