Q&A: EU labels for illegal Israeli settlement goods

AFP , Wednesday 11 Nov 2015

Food products manufactured in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank are on display at a supermarket in Tel Aviv, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015 (Photo: AP)

In a move that has infuriated Israel, the EU on Wednesday approved guidelines for member states on the the labelling of goods from illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Here is a look at the key issues:

The European Commission, the EU's powerful executive arm which is responsible for the guidelines, says the labelling decision is not a new law but clarifies existing rules on the place of origin that will be sold in the 28-nation EU.

It said it was responding to demands from member states for advice on how to label the origin of goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem and occupied Golan Heights, the territories that Israel seized at the end of the 1967 Six Day War.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law

Three EU member states -- Britain in 2009, Denmark in 2013 and Belgium in 2014 -- have already produced their own national guidelines which apply on a voluntary basis.

The EU guidelines do not give precise wording for the labels for settlement-produced goods but make firm suggestions for language.

They say that it would be misleading to put "product from Israel" on such goods because the settlements are not recognised internationally, while just putting "product from Golan Heights" or "product from West Bank" would mislead consumers.

"In such cases the expression 'Israeli settlement' or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as 'product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)' or 'product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)' could be used," say the guidelines.

Under EU law, Indications of origin for products sold in the EU are mandatory for all fresh fruits and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, chicken, organic products and cosmetics. They are optional for pre-packaged food products and the majority of industrial products.

In cases where labelling is not obligatory, consumer protection laws in member states apply.

Israel says that the labels are "discriminatory", brands the decision political, and notes and that similar conditions are not applied to other conflicts around the globe.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the EU should be "ashamed" and compared the decision to the Nazi era.

The European Commission insists that the decision is a "technical issue not a political stance" and said there was no question of any boycott of Israeli goods or economic sanctions.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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