Tuesday

23rd Apr 2019

Opinion

EU parliament is damaging EU-Israel relations

  • 'European consumers ... would get quicker access to Israeli pharmaceutical products' (Photo: www.freeimages.co.uk)

Relations with Israel have always been a devisive issue in political debate in Europe. There have always been those who symphatise with Israel and those who take a more critical stance.

But when it comes to actual policy vis-a-vis Israel, none of the EU countries assume an overly critical stance and none of them call for a boycott of relations with Israel. On the contrary, most European capitals have embraced Israel as a strong partner and ally. The European Commission, following the prevailing attitudes in the member states, especially the most powerful ones, has also taken a generally Israel-friendly approach.

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The situation in the European Parliament (EP) is very different.

As a member of the International Trade Committee, since June last year I have been the EP's rapporteur on the consent (ratification) procedure for the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) between the EU and Israel, which is part of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, together with an additional protocol on pharmaceutical products.

Once adopted, the ACAA would foresee mutual recognition of regulatory and verification procedures for pharmaceutical products in the EU and Israel.

This would benefit European consumers as they would get quicker access to Israeli pharmaceutical products as there would no longer be a need for a second testing in the EU, something that normally takes one to three years. The removal of lengthy and costly procedures would also mean lower prices of pharmaceutical products.

The adoption of the ACAA would also bring political benefit. One needs to keep in mind that in order to conclude this agreement, Israel has had to substantially approximate its regulatory framework on pharmaceutical products to that of the EU.

Anyone who understands the workings of EU external policy knows that it is exactly through the spread of the acquis communautaire to third countries that the EU exerts influence externally. By adopting this and all future ACAA protocols, the EU would be drawing Israel's legislation closer to that of its own.

Despite these obvious benefits and despite the fact that the EU Council gave its green light to this agreement right after its conclusion in May last year, the approval of the ACAA has been stuck in the EP for months now due to the position of certain political groups which think there should be no upgrade of EU-Israel relations until Israel takes a more committed stance in peace talks with Palestinians and improves its human rights record.

Being also the vice-chair of the EP's Subcommittee on Human Rights as well as last year's EP rapporteur on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World and EU policy on the matter in 2009, I know very well the situation of human rights in the Middle East and across the world.

By effectively boycotting progress in EU relations with Israel we are putting it in the same rank as countries like Iran, Cuba or Libya. Only those that are completely biased can compare the human rights situation in these countries to that of Israel.

By freezing this agreement we are not punishing Israel. We are punishing our own consumers and cutting an important channel of influence on Israel. The EP can also take credit for being the leader of a political boycott of Israel.

Laima Andrikiene is a Member of the European Parliament from Lithuania representing the largest political group in the EP - the European People's Party (EPP)

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