The European Union is working on legal guidelines for any member states that might choose to clearly label products produced in West Bank settlements, according to diplomatic sources.
“We are pursuing efforts to ensure correct labeling of settlement goods as tasked by the council,” an EU spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The work now underway in Brussels to create guidelines for the sale of West Bank settlement products follows a December 2012 conclusion by an EU meeting of foreign ministers that all agreements with Israel “must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, namely the Golan Heights; the West Bank, including east Jerusalem; and the Gaza Strip.”
Postal codes placed on these products already alert European custom officials that the products are produced over the pre-1967 line and are thus not part of the EU’s free trade understanding with Israel.
But the label still reads “made in Israel” and the consumer cannot distinguish on which side of the pre-1967 line the product was produced.
Last week 13 European foreign ministers sent a letter to the EU’s Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton in which they applauded this work.
“We warmly welcome your commitment to work with fellow commissioners to prepare EU-wide guidelines on the labeling of settlement [products],” the letter said.
“This is an important step to ensure correct and coherent implementation of EU consumer protection and labeling legislation which is in fulfillment of our previous commitments and is fully consistent with long standing EU policy in relation to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories,” the letter continued.
“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 foreign ministers continued, “If European consumers have confidence that they know the origin of goods they are purchasing, both Green Line Israeli producers and Palestinian producers will benefit.”
The letter was first published by AFP and later obtained by the Post.
Among the countries that signed it were: the United Kingdom, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia.
Israel has fought against any European efforts to label products made in West Bank settlements.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, “we are engaged in a long time diplomatic battle in the EU in order to explain that this measure is discriminatory and therefore should not be adopted.”
The EU is applying this kind of labeling only to Israeli West Bank settlements and not to any other areas in which there is a border dispute.
“Since it singles out Israel and Israel only for labeling, obviously consumer protection arguments do not hold water,” he said.
Israel believes that its citizens have a right to live over the pre-1967 line and that attempts to curtail those rights are part of an initiative to set the borders of a two-state solution outside the framework of direct negotiations.
View original Jerusalem Post publication at: http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/EU-working-on-guidelines-to-label-West-Bank-products-310760