Monday

21st Aug 2017

EU-Israel drugs pact contains legal pitfall

  • The EU court in Luxembourg - if the commission fudges things, Acaa could be put on trial (Photo: Alfonso Salgueiro)

MEPs have rubber-stamped a trade deal with Israel despite a warning by their own legal services that it might clash with EU law.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday (23 October) passed the so-called Acaa (Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products) pact by 379 votes against 230 with 40 abstentions.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  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 the deal, most drugs certified by EU or Israeli authorities can be sold in both territories without getting new permission from the other side.

Israel is a big exporter of medicines, such as Copaxone, a multiple sclerosis drug, and Lipitor, a blood pressure pill.

The fact some of them are produced on occupied Palestinian land is not a problem for Acaa.

Whether the drug is made in Israel, China or the US, Israeli officials can go and inspect the producer and approve the drug without implying any extension of Israeli sovereignty.

The legal description of the Israeli body which certifies drugs for Acaa purposes could be a stumbling block, however.

EU parliament lawyers spelled out their views in a 10-page analysis dated 16 March this year.

They said that if Israel's Acaa regulator - most likely its health ministry - is described as having jurisdiction over occupied land then the EU cannot recognise it and cannot implement the trade deal.

Israel could say its Acaa regulator is only valid for Israel proper. "If Israel nominates the responsible authority ... to be competent in the whole of Israel, which in Israel's definition of territory includes territories which came under Israeli administration in 1967, then the commission is not in a position to acknowledge that nomination, but may request that the nomination clearly limits the competence of the nominated responsible authority so as not to cover those territories," the parliament lawyers noted.

But this would amount to political suicide for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

EUobserver on Wednesday asked the commission if the parliament lawyers have a point.

Its experts said Israel can certify drugs no matter where they are made but they said nothing on how to designate the Israeli regulator.

When asked again, trade spokesman John Clancy said: "I really don't see the confusion ... This issue was discussed in detail with the European Parliament. The latter accepted this approach by giving its consent to Acaa."

For Charles Shamas, a campaigner at the Brussels and Ramallah-based NGO the Mattin Group, and for Franziska Brantner, a German Green MEP, the commission response is no surprise.

"They have been trying to avoid answering this question for the past six months in the hope they can fudge the agreement in some way," Shamas said.

"Unless somebody takes them to [the EU's] court in Luxembourg, they will probably manage it," Brantner added.

The Green, Socialist, Liberal and far-left GUE groups in parliament had tabled a declaration to be attached to Acaa on the regulator issue.

But it fell by the wayside because the centre-right EPP group did not like it and the Liberal and Socialist groups started bickering over Acaa in general.

The legal problem also got buried by debate on Acaa political symbolism.

In a week in which Israel opted to build another 797 settler units, left-leaning MEPs said Acaa amounts to EU appeasement. Meanwhile, centre-right MEPs and pro-Israeli lobbyists, such as the American Jewish Committee, said Acaa is about "saving lives."

"The opposition [to Acaa] is based on political signals - do we do another thing with Israel or not? A lot of people [MEPs] don't understand the legal issues," Shamas said.

MEPs split on EU-Israel trade deal

MEPs have set the scene for an ill-tempered debate on Israeli settlements after a committee endorsed removing trade barriers for Israeli medical products.

'I thought I was safe in Europe'

Arrest of Turkish dissident has again highlighted the way rogue regimes use Interpol to hunt their enemies inside the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  2. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  3. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  4. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week
  5. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  6. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  7. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  8. European Union returns to 2 percent growth

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference