13 member states call for EU to enforce labelling of settlers’ goods
This posting has these items:
1) Akiva Eldar: EU Countries to Label Products From Israeli Settlements, misleading headline for a piece which links the response to Lady Ashton’s letter to the Kerry/Obama push for restarted negotiations;
2) EUbusiness: EU foreign ministers want West Bank settlement goods labelled;
3) Times of Israel: EU foreign policy chief wants settlement goods labeled, March 2013;
4) Spiegel online: Patience Runs Out , background article on EU response to Israeli mis-labelling;
5) EC Taxation and Customs: EU-Israel Technical Arrangement,legal notice that the preferential tariffs agreed with Israel do not apply to goods made in the oPt;
6) DEFRA: British government advice on labelling of produce grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories 2009 – a matter of tariffs;
7) Notes and links, including to the ACAA – the updating of the preferential trade agreement between the EU and Israel, against which JfJfP and other bodies actively, but unsuccessfully, campaigned in 2012.
Palestinian activists march through a supermarket in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, Oct. 24, 2012. Some 50 activists were calling for a boycott of settlement products. Photo by Ammar Awad/Reuters
EU Countries to Label Products From Israeli Settlements
By Akiva Eldar, Al-Monitor/ Israel Pulse
April 19, 2013
As the United States attempts to renew the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians, the European Union is adopting tougher measures toward Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Al-Monitor has learned that 13 member states, including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands, have decided to label the products imported from the settlements.
On April 12, in a letter sent to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, a copy of which was obtained by Al-Monitor, the foreign ministers welcomed the call by Lady Ashton on Feb. 22 to the 27 EU foreign ministers for full enforcement of EU legislation regarding the labeling of products from Israeli settlements.
This step is in fulfillment of our previous commitments and is fully consistent with longstanding EU policy in relation to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,
they wrote. The letter states further:
As you set out, our consumers have the right to an informed choice; this initiative will help support our retailers to provide this. The correct labeling of products is necessary to ensure our consumers are not being misled by false information.
The decision by the EU states comes despite efforts by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Israeli ambassadors to EU states to prevent implementation of Ashton’s guidelines.
The other countries that have announced the adoption of the directive are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal and Slovenia. Germany, Italy, Sweden and Greece are prominently absent from the list of the letter’s signatory states.
A senior Palestinian official told Al-Monitor that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had recently appealed to European leaders urging them to help Secretary of State John Kerry thaw the freeze in negotiations with Israel. The Palestinians view the decision by the 13 foreign ministers as complementing US diplomatic moves. Senior Israeli officials, meanwhile, have told Al-Monitor that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed Kerry that he rejects the Palestinian demand to start negotiations based on the 1967 borders, so long as they reject his demand that negotiations be based on a two-state solution — a state for the Jewish people alongside a state for the Palestinian people.
The Dutch government, considered by Israel as one of its closest friends in Europe, had already called on the country’s retail chains last month to label Israeli products made in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. It was preceded by Britain and South Africa. In response to those decisions, the umbrella organization of the settlements, the Yesha Council, announced that product labeling would “hurt the economic coexistence” in the industrial zones of Judea and Samaria and result in layoffs for many Palestinians.
There has been a long campaign to boycott the cosmetic products of Ahava. Although labelled ‘Made in Israel’ they are in fact made in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Seee also B’Tselem’s report Dispossession and Exploitation: Israel’s Policy in the Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea. Photo by Who Profits.
An agreement reached nine years ago requires Israeli exporters marketing their products to EU states to provide the names of the settlements where the products are made, but does not require that they indicate whether the settlement is located on sovereign Israeli lands or in territories considered by the EU as occupied. But many European consumers who boycott settlement products cannot determine, just by the name, on which side of the Green Line dividing Israel from the territories the settlement is located. Customs authorities in EU countries also have a hard time sorting the merchandise based only on the name of the settlements in order to determine which exporters are entitled to the benefits of Israel’s customs agreements with the EU.
According to the agreement with the EU, products made in the occupied territories do not benefit from lower tariffs, but the Israeli Finance Ministry compensates the exporters for the extra cost.
Akiva Eldar is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Israel Pulse. He was formerly a senior columnist and editorial writer for Haaretz and also served as the Hebrew daily’s US bureau chief and diplomatic correspondent. His most recent book (with Idith Zertal), Lords of the Land, on the Jewish settlements, was on the best-seller list in Israel and has been translated into English, German and Arabic.
Media release, EUbusiness
April 19, 2013
JERUSALEM- EU foreign ministers, among them Britain’s William Hague and Laurent Fabius of France, have said they will back EU efforts to label products from Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to a letter obtained by AFP on Friday.
Israel complained that the initiative was discriminatory and unfair.
Lady Ashton, the EU’s first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission. Part of her job is to co-ordinate the foreign policies of the 27 national governments.
“We warmly welcome your commitment to work with fellow commissioners to prepare EU-wide guidelines on the labelling of settlement produce,” said the letter by 13 ministers, addressed to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and dated April 12.
“This is an important step to ensure correct and coherent application of EU consumer protection and labelling legislation, which is in fulfilment of our previous commitments and is fully consistent with long-standing EU policy in relation to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
“We stand ready to assist you in taking forward this important work,” added the signatories, which also included the chief diplomats of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland and Slovenia.
Britain and Denmark have been at the forefront of calls for clear and unambiguous labelling of settlement products.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Friday that, by concentrating on Israel, the campaign was unfair.
“This whole labelling initiative is fundamentally discriminatory as it singles out one country and one area for labelling,” he told AFP. “Surely the EU feels strongly about quite a wide number of areas in controversy around the world and indeed in Europe itself.”
“If the labelling initiative had been universal and should it affect all controversial areas then it would have been a fair measure,” he added.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem are illegal under international law, and goods produced there are not eligible for the same preferential tariffs enjoyed by Israeli exports to the EU.
According to 2012 World Bank figures, the EU imports 230 million euros ($300 million) of goods a year from Israeli settlements — or 15 times more than from Palestinians themselves.
Despite Catherine Ashton’s letter, Europe unlikely to ban West Bank products, EU official tells Times of Israel
By Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel
March 1, 2013
The European Union is intensifying its efforts toward labeling Israeli goods produced beyond the pre-1967 lines — in the Golan Heights, and across the so-called Green Line in east Jerusalem and the West Bank — as not having originated in Israel.
The move could be a precursor to a ban on such products, though insiders do not consider this likely in the foreseeable future.
In a new letter to the foreign ministries of the 27 member states, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for the full implementation of existing EU legislation according to which products from West Bank settlements and the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem do not receive the same treatment as products from areas the EU recognizes as sovereign Israeli territory.
To date, the existing EU legislation — designed to express the union’s frustration over Israel’s settlement policies and the stalemate in the peace process — has not been implemented. Ashton’s letter marks a significant push within the EU to label settlement products as such. A ban on such products, a possible next step, is unlikely to be put in effect any time soon, Israeli and EU sources said.
“The EU and its members states have a clear position on settlement activities in the occupied territories. Closely linked to this is the question of products imported into the EU originating beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders and their correct labeling on the EU market,” Ashton wrote in text of the letter quoted by Maariv on Friday.
Some EU members states have already introduced voluntary national guidelines on the labeling of such products and others are currently planning to do so, Ashton wrote. “An increasing number of member states” have been calling to formulate and implement EU guidelines “in a coherent manner,” she added.
An EU official in Tel Aviv told The Times of Israel on Friday that Ashton was not calling for a ban of settlement products but wanted to reiterate a commitment to a recent EU foreign ministers’ decision “to ensure the full and effective implementation of existing European Union legislation applicable to settlement products.” Her letter “conforms entirely to the spirit and language of those conclusions,” the official said, adding that it is Ashton’s job “to coordinate action in this regard.”
The official further noted that EU has not discussed any measures aimed at banning imports from settlements. “On the contrary, ensuring correct implementation of relevant legislation on labeling could assuage pressures to ban settlement products and help to avoid a boycott of all Israeli goods.”
The EU does not recognize the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967, as Israeli territory, and products from these areas therefore do not benefit from preferential trade arrangements between Israel and EU.
In recent months and weeks, several reports suggested the EU was planning to label and perhaps ban Israeli products that originate beyond the Green Line. This week, consuls general representing the EU in the Palestinian territories recommended that the union curb trade with Israelis located beyond the Green Line and cease financial support for them.
In a new report sent to Brussels and foreign ministries in the 27 member states, the consuls general, who are stationed in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, called on the EU to “prevent, discourage and raise awareness about problematic implications of financial transactions including foreign direct investments, from within the EU in support of settlement activities, infrastructure and services,” Haaretz reported Wednesday.
However, the EU’s ambassador in Israel, Andrew Standley, told The Times of Israel last month that the imposition of sanctions against Israel required a unanimous decision of the 27 member states and was therefore unlikely. “The EU is opposed to boycotts. This is not the way we operate in terms of our international relations,” he said.
By Christoph Schult in Brussels, Spiegel online
February 11, 2013
Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian terroritories often deceptively give their products a “Made in Israel” label. The European Union wants to move soon to end the practice and appears to be set on a collision course with the country.
The wine section on the basement floor of the Galeria Kaufhof department store in downtown Cologne has a good assortment of wines from around the world. Above the bottles, the shelves bear little tags showing the prices and flags of the countries of origin.
One cubicle has a tag showing a blue Star of David on a white background. At first glance, one might be led to believe that the wine comes from Israel. It even says “Wine of Israel” on the label. However, it requires a good bit of geographical and historical expertise to figure out the true origin of this €14.99 ($20) bottle of wine. The label says it is a 2008 “Gamla” Cabernet Sauvignon, “Produced & Bottled by Golan Heights Winery.” The address provided is “12900 Katzrin, Israel.”
But that address isn’t in Israel. Katzrin is a settlement in the Golan Heights. Until the Six Day War of 1967, the rock plateau stretching some 60 kilometers (37 miles) belonged to Syria. The Israeli army has occupied both it and the Palestinian West Bank ever since.
The international community has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over these areas, and the Geneva Convention outlaws the establishment of settlements within occupied territories. Nevertheless, successive Israeli governments have allowed colonies to be built up within them and, today, some 650,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently confirmed what little concern the Israeli government has for respecting international law on this issue. “The days of bulldozers flattening settlements to the ground are over,” he told the daily tabloid Maariv.
Israel held parliamentary elections on Jan. 22 and is now in the process of forming a new coalition government to be led by Netanyahu. Although the coalition will include the liberal parties in the political center, politicians representing settlers will also have a strong voice in the new government. This configuration is diminishing the hopes of politicians in Berlin, Brussels and Washington who were eager to revive the comatose Middle East peace process.
This has prompted the European Union officials to move forward with planning that will put them on a confrontation course with Israel. The main issue is settlement policies. At a meeting in December, the foreign ministers of the EU’s 27 member states reiterated “their commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing European Union legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.” In other words, they intend to prohibit the sale of goods produced in the occupied territories — or at least as long as they are falsely labelled.
Sanctions against products from the settlements would be a major blow to the Israeli economy. Each year, the settlers export some €220 million worth of goods to Europe, whereas the comparable figure for the Palestinians is a mere €15 million. Israel has accordingly reacted very negatively to the plans in Brussels. In a response to the plans, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin argued that there are territorial disputes all over the world. “If this kind of labelling regulation is not universal, and seeks to single out one place exclusively, namely Israel,” it said, “then this measure will be inherently iniquitous and discriminatory by nature, and it should be treated as such.”
Such charges have not been intimidating to officials in Brussels. Employees of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU diplomatic service ushered in by the Treaty of Lisbon, recently sifted through the entire corpus of EU legislation in order to determine which directives and regulations could be cited in efforts to ban settler-made products. The list of applicable legislation, which SPIEGEL has obtained, shows that the lion’s share of potentially banned products involves foodstuffs.
Difficulties in Verifying Origins
For example, European Council Regulation 1234/2007 sets rules “on specific provisions for certain agricultural products,” including wine. Among the product information that must be declared is origin. But, in practice, the law is constantly violated.
Council Regulation 479/2008 stipulates who is responsible for monitoring that wine is properly labelled. Article 62 says: “The competent authorities of the Member States shall take measures to ensure that a product referred to in Article 59(1)” — including wine and related grapevine products — “not labelled in conformity with this Chapter is not placed on, or is withdrawn from, the market.”
The red wine from the Golan Heights sold in the Galeria Kaufhof is imported to Germany by Champagner und Wein Distributionsgesellschaft mbH & Co. KG, a company based in the northern German state of in Schleswig-Holstein. But the state’s ministry responsible for agriculture doesn’t see any reason to take action. A ministry spokeswoman says that since Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor has already provided a document confirming the origin of the wine, there is no deception in the matter.
The EU member states also rely on the information supplied by Israeli exporters when it comes to fruit and vegetables. It is difficult to verify precisely where an orange or olive has been harvested. Right now, one of the main things EU officials are looking into are dates that are grown by Israeli settlers in the occupied Jordan Valley.
Products from Israeli cosmetics firm Ahava are also the subject of dispute. The company produces creams and shower gels that contain minerals from the Dead Sea. The products’ packaging includes the details, “Dead Sea Laboratories. Israel.” In truth, the products are manufactured at the edge of the Dead Sea in the occupied West Bank.
The company refused to answer detailed legal questions. “Ahava works in coordination with the German authorities, the European Commission and under the law,” the company stated, tersely. But the apparent calm was feigned. Ahava immediately informed the Israeli Embassy in Berlin about SPIEGEL’s reporting.
The German importer of Ahava products is based in Wiesbaden, so any control of its products is the responsibility of the city, which is the state capital of Hesse. In a written response to a query from SPIEGEL, the city’s consumer protection department wrote that because the company’s headquarters is officially located within the recognized borders of the state of Israel, “nothing misleading can be detected.”
Countries Turn Blind Eye to Imports
But officials at the EU in Brussels have a different view. Under EU Regulation 2005/29, a trader is considered to be conducting misleading actions when it presents material information “in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.” The European Commission considers such practices to be “misleading omissions”. Officials in Brussels have come to the conclusion that controllers in many EU member states are simply turning a blind eye to products originating from Israeli settlements.
A SPIEGEL review of all 27 EU national governments confirmed this suspicion. The simple question of whether or not products from settlements in the West Bank or the Golan Heights “come from Israel” generated highly varied answers. Britain, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain and Cyprus all answered the question with a clear “no”. These countries consider products with the labels “Product of Israel” or “Made in Israel” to be misleading. A spokesperson with the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wrote that, “Items imported into the UK from Israeli settlements, such as those in the West Bank, can’t lawfully be labelled as products of Israel.”
Other EU countries expressed uncertainty. Given the country’s difficult history, officials in Germany are taking pains to avoid anything that might evoke any kind of historical associations with the Nazis’ campaigns to prevent people from buying products from Jews. German government officials are urging the European Commission to provide “guidance assistance on the implementation of EU law in relation to a consistency with EU law and correct labelling.”
A number of EU countries see no problem whatsoever with the labelling. They point out that sales are legal as soon as customs officials have approved the products. However, the only thing that customs officials check is whether or not the products fall under the EU-Israel Association Agreement. If they do, then importers are not required to pay an import tariff.
The Galeria Kaufhof department store chain also sees no reason to act. The company argues it is the sole responsibility of suppliers to ensure proper labelling. The company also spoke to the Israeli Embassy in Berlin before answering a question from this SPIEGEL reporter. “Suppliers and the embassy were able to give us credible assurances that their actions are legal,” a company spokesman wrote.
He also added that “Galeria Kaufhof, like the majority of the people, wish the Middle East peace.”
Legal Notice, by EC Taxation and Customs Union
Last update: 14/03/2013
On 3 August 2012, the Commission published, with effect as of 13 August 2012, a revised Notice to Importers (see OJ C 232 page 5) concerning imports from Israel into the Union.
By a notice published on 25 January 2005, operators had been reminded that products produced in the Israeli settlements located within the territories brought under Israeli administration since June 1967 were not entitled to benefit from preferential tariff treatment under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Since 1 February 2005, the exclusion of settlement goods from preferential treatment has been implemented in the EU as follows:
– in accordance with a ‘Technical Arrangement’ concluded by the EU and Israel, the postal code and the name of the city, village or industrial zone where production conferring originating status has taken place appear on all proofs of preferential origin issued or made out in Israel;
– Member States’ customs authorities check whether the postal codes appearing on Israeli proofs of origin presented to them correspond to any of the postal codes appearing in the list of non-eligible locations made available to them by the Commission and refuse preference where such is the case. The list of non-eligible locations was not public.
The main change brought in by the revised notice consists of making the list of non-eligible locations public. The list initially made public in August 2012 has been updated further to Israel’s move, as of 1 February 2013, to a 7 digit postal code system instead of the 5 digit system used until then.
See the updated list of non-eligible locations in the English/international version. The previous list(347 Kb) remains available.
P.O. boxes are not a sufficiently reliable indication of the place where production conferring origin takes place and cannot be used to determine whether products may be eligible for preferential tariff treatment.
Importers are informed that their Israeli suppliers may continue to mention on proofs of origin the ‘old’ 5-digit postal codes until 31 January 2014. This transitional period should allow Israeli exporters to adapt their Information Technology (IT) systems to the new postal code system. Importers should rely on the revised list both in cases where the proof of origin in their possession shows a ‘new’ 7-digit postal code and where the postal code appearing on the proof of origin is of the ‘old’ 5-digit type.
To be noted:
1) The list is available in a format allowing to carry out searches, using the ‘find’ command of Adobe Reader; this means that carefully entering in the ‘find’ box the first five digits of the postal code appearing on a proof of origin will allow to determine whether preference may be claimed or not.
2) This list only exists in English (or more precisely with a transliteration of the Hebrew alphabet into the Latin/English alphabet); however, translations into the other EU languages of the important notice (133 Kb) appearing at the top of the list are also available.
Operators are advised to consult the list before lodging a customs declaration for releasing goods for free circulation in support of which they intend to provide proof of preferential origin issued or made out in Israel. If they find the postal code appearing on the proof of origin in their possession in Part I of the list of non-eligible locations, they should refrain from claiming preference.
If they find the postal code appearing on the proof of origin in their possession in Part II of the list, they are advised to consult the customs office where they intend to lodge the relevant declaration for release for free circulation in order to verify the exact position, and thus eligibility for preference, of the place of production conferring originating status.
Issued by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, UK,
10 December 2009
1. The Government has received requests from retailers, consumer groups and NGOs for greater clarity about which origin should be stated on food and drink goods that have been produced and packed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Their enquiries have focused particularly on the distinction between products from Palestinian producers and products from Israeli settlements in the OPT.
2. The following advice (produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Food Standards Agency, HM Revenue and Customs, the Cabinet Office and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) has been prepared to help businesses, should they wish to respond to consumer demand for information about the origin of food that has been produced in the OPT. The issue of clarity of origin between Palestinian producers and Israeli settlement producers within the OPT largely concerns the West Bank area. Although this advice would be applicable to imports from Gaza and East Jerusalem, we are aware that the majority of imports into the UK come from the West Bank and there have been no Israeli settlements in Gaza since 2006.
3. The EC legal requirements for retail labelling exist to provide a level playing field in trade across the Community and also to provide information to consumers on – amongst other particulars – the origin of products:
i. for some agricultural produce, country of origin must be stated, in accordance with the specific rules applying to the product in question. So, in respect of wine and most fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, most produce is covered by EC legislation which requires its country of origin to be stated (1);
ii. furthermore, even in the absence of such sector-specific legislation,
EC law (2) requires that the place of origin or provenance of food should be labelled where the omission of such details might materially mislead the consumer about the true origin or provenance of the food;
iii. finally, even where it is not a legal requirement, food produce can be voluntarily labelled with its country of origin.
4. For produce from the West Bank, labelling currently states country of origin as ‘Produce of the West Bank’. Traders and retailers may wish to indicate whether the product originated from an Israeli settlement or from Palestinian producers. This could take the form, for example, of ‘Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)’ or ‘Produce of the West Bank (Palestinian produce)’, as appropriate.
5. Separately, the Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli
settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel.
6. Information on produce origin is available in various forms which should be available to retailers as a result of their individual relationships with suppliers. In addition, in many cases information on the origin of products can be found on Customs documentation:
i. Products will in many cases be accompanied by proof of preferential origin issued in Israel for the purposes of obtaining a nil or reduced rate of customs duty under the provisions of the EU- Israel Association agreement (3). This will either be an EUR1 Movement Certificate (stamped by Israeli Customs) or preferentialorigin declarations on invoices or other commercial documents.
In all cases, the proof of preferential origin will contain details of the place of production and accompanying zip code (i.e. postcode) of the produce concerned. This zip code will enable a distinction to be drawn between products from the internationally recognised state of Israel and products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The inclusion of the place of production and zip code on the Israeli proof of preferential origin therefore enables a distinction to be made between which products are and are not entitled to a preferential rate of duty under the EU-Israel Agreement (see para 12 below). Only those products covered by a proof showing a place of production and zip code in the territory of the State of Israel are eligible for preferential access under the Agreement. HM Revenue and Customs will reject the claim to Israeli preference in all cases where the proof shows a Settlement location and zip code.
ii. A range of products from the West Bank (also covering Gaza and East Jerusalem), are covered by the Euro-Mediterranean Interim Association Agreement on Trade & Co-operation between the European Union and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This grants duty-free or reduced-tariff treatment on the products exported to the EU, in many cases within the limits of quotas. As in paragraph 6(i) above, eligible goods exported under this preferential arrangement will be covered by an EUR1 Movement certificate or invoice declaration. The EUR1 will be stamped by the Customs and Excise Department of the Palestinian National authority. Goods accompanied by such certificates are likely to be of West Bank Palestinian origin. However, it would be advisable to verify this by checking with your supplier.
iii. In cases where the goods are not exported under the provisions in
i) and ii) above, documents such as invoices, packing lists, delivery notes and transport documents may provide an indication of the place of production or of the place of the initial loading of the products. If the information is not readily available from accompanying documents, retailers may wish to consider whether they are able to obtain, direct from their suppliers, information about the place of production.
7. In all cases the HMRC enquiry line on 0845 010 9000 will be able to help
retailers to establish whether the declared location and postcode (where
shown) relates to an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and should be used as the primary source of information and assistance. In the vast majority of cases HMRC will be able to say immediately whether a place is in a settlement. However, there may be a small number of instances where it will have to seek advice from the European Commission.
HMG Position Statement: Israeli Settlements in Occupied Palestinian
8. The Occupied Palestinian Territories were occupied by Israel in 1967.
They include the territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East
Jerusalem. Settlements are Israeli communities established, usually by
Israeli citizens, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (there are no
longer any Israeli settlements in Gaza).
9. Israeli settlements in the OPT are unlawful under international law. They
contravene Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into occupied territory.
10. In addition, the Government believes that the existence – and continued
growth – of Israeli settlements poses a significant obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This is because the settlement of occupied territories makes it more difficult to establish a viable Palestinian state. Israel has committed to freeze all settlement activity as part of previous political (4) agreements, such as the Roadmap of 2003 and the Annapolis Agreement of 2007. Though Israel recently announced a limited ten month moratorium on settlement building in the occupied West Bank, Israel has not yet fully fulfilled its obligations under these political agreements. At the same time, the clear position of the Government is that we are opposed to boycotts of Israel or Israeli goods. We do not believe that boycotts help engage or influence Israel, or lead to progress in the Middle East Peace Process.
11. In many cases information on whether products from the West Bank are
from Palestinian producers or from Israeli settlements can be found on HM Revenue and Customs documentation pursuant to the following two EU agreements:
EU-Israel Association Agreement
12. The EU-Israel Association Agreement, in force since 2000, provides for
products from Israel to be imported into EU countries at a preferential
tariff rate, in some cases within the limits of quotas. But the EU and
Israel differ over the territorial scope of the Agreement. The EU does not recognise the OPT as part of the State of Israel (i.e. those territories
occupied by Israel since 1967).
13. In recent years, the EU has become aware that products Israel was
exporting to the EU as ‘Israeli’ products included products originating
from the OPT. There is nothing to prevent such products from being imported into the EU, but, according to the European Commission, they should not benefit from the preferential treatment afforded by the EUIsrael Association Agreement.
14. In November 2001 the European Commission therefore alerted importers, through a notice in the Official Journal, that importers in EU countries were required to take all necessary precautions regarding the origin of produce. It noted that putting into circulation, under the provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, goods produced in Israeli settlements in the OPT risked giving rise to a Customs debt, i.e. that importers might have to pay national Customs authorities the difference between the EU-Israel Association Agreement’s preferential tariff rate and the standard rate. This made clear that the onus was on importers in EU countries to take steps to establish whether the products involved were entitled to benefit from the EU’s preferential tariff rates.
15. Since 2005, there has been a requirement under a technical arrangement adopted by the EU-Israel Customs Co-operation Committee on 12 December 2004 that all proofs of preferential origin covering imports from Israel under the provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement must indicate the imported goods’ place of production and an accompanying postcode. This is to ensure the full rate of Customs duty is payable on any consignment which is indicated as originating in an Israeli settlement so that it does not benefit from the reduced tariff by claiming Israeli preferential origin. (5)
16. A list of zip codes (postcodes) was supplied by the Israeli authorities to the European Commission, which in turn passed it on to all EU Member
States. If a retailer or importer is unsure whether a declared postcode
relates to an Israeli settlement, then they should contact HMRC’s
enquiry line on 0845 010 9000, which can provide the answer.
Euro-Mediterranean Interim Association Agreement on Trade & Cooperation between the European Union and the Palestine Liberation Organisation
17. Since 1997 there has been a Euro-Mediterranean Interim Association
Agreement on trade and cooperation between the European Community,
and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). This agreement grants
duty free or reduced tariff treatment (within quotas) on Palestinian products originating in the OPT which are exported to the EU.
(1) Commission Regulation (EC) No 1580/2007 (as amended) in relation to fruit and vegetables and Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2008 in relation to wine.
(2) Community legislation on the labelling of foodstuffs includes general provisions on the labelling of foodstuffs to be delivered to the consumer, as laid out in European Parliament and Council Directive 2000/13/EC.
(3)“The Euro-Mediterranean Agreement – establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the State of Israel of the otherpart” – is known as the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
Notes and links
The 13 signatories to the letter to Lady Ashton
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia, Spain, UK.
The other 14 countries of the EU
Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden.
Israel’s rigged economy and the European parliament
EU-Israel Association Agreement
The EU-Israel ACAA agreement – update May 2012
Demand that EU puts human rights law before trade privileges for Israel
Proposed EU-Israel trade deal puts EU credibility on human rights at stake