Wednesday

17th Aug 2022

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

News in Brief

  1. Next UK PM candidates reject Scottish independence push
  2. Spain 'hopeful' for new gas pipeline
  3. German troops return to Bosnia over instability fears
  4. US weighs plan to revive Iran nuclear deal
  5. Tens of thousands of Jews quit Russia since start of war
  6. Russia will not allow British spy plane overflight
  7. Germans face €480 gas bill spike
  8. Ukraine claims to have hit Wagner paramilitary base

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us