Arab Times

Products to be ‘labelled’



BRUSSELS/JERUSALEM, Nov 11, (RTRS): The EU executive approved new guidelines on Wednesday for labelling products made in Israeli settlement­s, a move Brussels said was technical but Israel branded “discrimina­tory” and damaging to peace efforts with the Palestinia­ns.

Drawn up over three years by the European Commission, the guidelines mean Israeli producers must explicitly label farm goods and cosmetics that come from settlement­s built on occupied land if they are sold in the European Union. Israeli officials were briefed ahead of the decision and responded quickly after it was taken. The foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the move, which it sees as an effort to put pressure on Israel over its settlement­s policy, and summoned the EU ambassador to Israel.

“We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptiona­l and discrimina­tory step, inspired by the boycott movement,” the ministry said.

“It is puzzling and even irritating that the EU chooses to apply a double standard concerning Israel, while ignoring that there are over 200 other territoria­l disputes worldwide.” The EU’s position is that the lands Israel has occupied since the 1967 Middle East war — including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights — are not part of the internatio­nally recognised borders of Israel.

As such, goods from there cannot be labelled “Made in Israel” and should be labelled as coming from settlement­s, which the EU considers illegal under internatio­nal law.

Indication “It’s an indication of origin, not a warning label,” the EU ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, told Reuters.

Britain, Belgium and Denmark already affix labels to Israeli goods, differenti­ating between those from Israel proper and those, particular­ly fruits and vegetables, that come from the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. Now all 28 EU member states would have to apply the same labelling.

While there is no EU official wording, goods must carry the word “settlement” on the tag when sold in European shops. If an Israeli farmer refuses, a retail outlet can do attach the label themselves, as the European Commission has sufficient informatio­n about where goods come from.

Israel’s ambassador to the European Union, David Walzer, warned it could make peace efforts with the Palestinia­ns even more difficult and said the EU might no longer be a welcome broker.

“We made it very clear that we welcome EU contributi­ons to the peace process,” Walzer said before the decision was formalised. “This might force us to reconsider that.”

Two elements of the EU decision have particular­ly enraged Israeli officials. They see the measures as an effective boycott of Israel and say other cases of long-standing occupation, such as Morocco’s seizure of Western Sahara, are not treated in the same way.

The EU dismisses the suggestion of a boycott, pointing out that it is not telling consumers what not to buy. Those who do not want to buy Israeli settlement goods probably already avoid them, and those that support the settlement­s may now more actively seek out settlement produce.

Question The question of a double-standard is harder for the EU, which has struggled with the question of Western Sahara in the past. When it comes to goods from northern Cyprus, seized by Turkey in 1974, the EU calls it “an internal issue.”

The details of the guidelines, set out in a five-page document of some 12 paragraphs, are expected to be published formally later on Thursday. A Commission source said they did not constitute new legislatio­n.

Since 2004, Israeli settlement products have not benefited from EU trade preference­s. For all countries, the EU requires labelling of the origin of fruit, vegetables and honey.

Industrial goods, including processed food, are not subject to mandatory labelling under EU law, but can be voluntary.

Israel’s Economy Ministry estimates the impact of Wednesday’s decision will be about $50 million a year, affecting fresh produce such as grapes and dates, wine, poultry, honey, olive oil and cosmetics made from Dead Sea minerals.

 ??  ?? Andersen

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