Recently, in the Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the European Parliament, took place an exchange of views on the implementation of trade preferences with Israel in regards to labelling of settlement products.
As a member of INTA Committee and part of my activity in relation to MENA region, I held an intervention during the exchange of views, rising two questions for the representatives of the European Commission present at the debate:
Dear representatives of the European Commission,
In the last two years we had several meetings on this topic. I believe enough time has passed since the Commission issued the Interpretative Notice regarding the labelling of settlement products, to be able to correctly identify two elements of interest:
1. How (if) the legislation works in practice?
If a piece of legislation is not applied or requires disproportionate efforts to become functional, than is our duty to intervene, change it and make it work.
2. What impact generated in relation with the peace process and the life of the people on the ground?
Let us not forget the final goal: at the end, all the legislative effort is meant to make people’s life better. First, within the European Union and, if possible, to all those around us.
Regarding the first question, I see that even some of the people called upon to legislate do not correctly understand the rules concerning the labelling of settlement products.
Even if it was mentioned before, I consider it must be repeated: labelling does not mean banning. Member States are free to import any product labelled as coming from the settlements. The decision rest with the European consumers and European companies to decide if they purchase or not such a product.
Regarding the second question, I can’t overlook an unwanted effect of this piece of EU legislation: it negatively impinge mostly upon the Palestinian population and their jobs.
EU came up with this legislative approach to improve Palestinian’s lives. It is part of EU’s effort to support the Palestinian Authority and the peace process. The workers in the companies functioning in the Jewish settlements from West Bank or Gaza are manly Palestinians. Obviously, boycotting products made by Palestinians does not improve their lives. On the contrary, it jeopardise their jobs.
I see the commercial agreements as instruments meant to encourage trade and develop local economies. Palestinians and the areas inhabited by them need and can use our help and assistance. Israel is the only EU’s partner democracy in the whole Middle East and a very close friend. Together with Israel, EU must work with the Palestinian Authority for the economic development of Palestinian economy – this I believe can prove to be the most solid base for the peace process in the region.