Jul 24 2012
Israeli Settlements are Wrong
Israeli Settlements are Wrong
I wrote yesterday about my outrage at the proposal to upgrade trade relations between the European Union (EU) and Israel. Today I would like to add a bit more background to show why I think that Israeli settlements are wrong and that the EU should not upgrade.
The European Union does not recognise the occupied territories as part of the State of Israel, and the European Parliamentary Labour Party supports ongoing efforts for a two-state solution. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has issued numerous statements on Israeli settlements, the most recent of which stated:
“Settlements are illegal under international law. In addition the Quartet Roadmap states that Israel should not only freeze all settlement activity, but also dismantle those settlements erected since March 2001. It is particularly important at this point that neither party in the Middle East peace process undertakes provocative actions which undermine the prospects for continuing the dialogue which was re-established in January.”
You may be interested to read the full statement here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&language=EN&reference=P7-TA-2011-429
In 2004, a technical agreement between the EU and Israel was reached which set out the procedure for identifying the origin of goods, in order to ensure that goods from the occupied territories do not enter the EU market under preferential agreements with Israel. This meant specifying the city, village or industrial zone as well as the postcode of the production location on all movement certificates and these must then be approved by the Israeli authorities. Each EU Member State’s customs authority is responsible for applying the appropriate duties depending on whether or not movement certificates specify a location within Israeli proper or within the occupied territories. In the most recent European Parliament plenary session Labour MEPs supported a resolution calling for effective implementation of this EU control mechanisms to ensure goods produced in the occupied territories do not enter the EU market as preferential goods. The full parliamentary resolution is here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fTEXT%2bTA%2bP7-TA-2012-0298%2b0%2bDOC%2bXML%2bV0%2f%2fEN&language=EN
The issue of clear labelling is essential in order to empower consumers to boycott goods from the Israeli settlements. The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has issued guidance to retailers that goods should be labelled either ‘Palestinian produce’ or ‘Israeli settlement produce’. The DEFRA guidance is voluntary but has been well received by supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, and I would fully support this scheme being introduced at EU level.
I have tabled parliamentary questions to the Commission requesting information on the monitoring of funds to the region and on the issue of EU procurement of public goods and services from the occupied territories. The rules on public procurement are due to be revised in the EU shortly, and I will raise this issue in the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament.
I strongly oppose any upgrade to trade relations with Israel at this time. The recent proposal for a ‘technical upgrade’ in relation to assessment standards of Israeli industrial products is unacceptable at this time, and you may be interested to see my intervention in the Parliament on this issue: http://www.martinmep.com/david-speaking-on-the-caa-july-2012-strasbourg-plenary