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Europe could label settlement products by year’s end

Letter by EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton recommends creation of EU-wide guidelines on labeling products from beyond the Green Line

Workers at a cherry factory in a West Bank settlement. May 25, 2009. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Workers at a cherry factory in a West Bank settlement. May 25, 2009. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The European Union is seeking to formulate guidelines for the labeling of products manufactured in Jewish West Bank settlements by the end of 2013, according to documentation published Tuesday.

A July 8 letter sent by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to high-ranking European commissioners says that member states must adopt standardized guidelines and regulations for labeling settlement products, Haaretz reported.

The letter called for a “commitment toward ensuring the effective implementation of existing EU legislation relevant for the correct labeling of settlement products by adopting EU guidelines and other implementing acts where necessary” and noted that “an overwhelming majority of Member States have recently supported or openly demanded the preparation of EU-wide guidelines on this issue in order to implement EU law in a coherent manner,” the report said.

The proposed guidelines would actually be non-binding for the most part and up to individual member states to implement, but the Foreign Ministry is reportedly afraid that because the settlements are viewed so negatively in Europe, the publication of EU-wide guidelines will lead to mass labeling or even a blanket boycott of settlement products.

Two of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands recently removed from their shelves all products manufactured in Israeli settlements and another asked its suppliers to verify the origin of items marked “Made in Israel,” according to a Monday report in the Dutch daily Trouw newspaper, which noted that the moves came in response to renewed public debate around the Israeli “occupied territories.”

Last week, the EU formally published new guidelines explicitly banning any EU funding of and cooperation with Israeli institutions operating in territories beyond the pre-1967 lines, amid vigorous Israeli objections.

The new directive, to take effect at the start of 2014, requires the EU and its members to cease any joint activity or funding with Israeli entities working over the Green Line in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and in the Golan Heights.

The measure also require any future agreements between Israel and the EU to include a clause in which Israel accepts the European Union’s position that all territory over the Green Line does not belong to Israel — a requirement that is anathema to Israel.

The EU holds that Jewish settlements in territories such as the West Bank and east Jerusalem are illegal. The Palestinians claim those territories for their hoped-for state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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