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EU approves protocol for its member states to label products made in Israeli settlements

The European Union Parliament in Brussels (Russell Trow/CC BY 2.0/Flickr)
The European Union Parliament in Brussels (Russell Trow/CC BY 2.0/Flickr)

Following is the full text of the European Union’s announcement regarding the labeling of products made by Israelis in the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem:

Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967

1. The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory , irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law . The Union has made it clear that it will not recognize any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) .

2. The application of existing Union legislation on indication of origin of products to products originating in Israeli-occupied territories has been the subject of notices or guidance adopted by the relevant authorities of several Member States. There is indeed a demand for clarity from consumers, economic operators and national authorities about existing Union legislation on origin information of products from Israeli-occupied territories. The aim is also to ensure the respect of Union positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the Union of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967. This notice also aims at maintaining open and smooth trade, is not hindering trade flows and should not be construed to do so.

3. This Notice does not create any new legislative rules. While this Notice reflects the Commission’s understanding of the relevant Union legislation, enforcement of the relevant rules remains the primary responsibility of Member States. According to the case-law, while the choice of penalties remains within their discretion, Member States must ensure that penalties for infringements of provisions of Union law are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.5 The Commission ensures, as guardian of the Treaties, compliance with these obligations of Member States if need be by way of infringement proceedings. This Notice is without prejudice to other requirements established by Union legislation, and to the interpretation which the Court of Justice may provide.

4. Several pieces of Union legislation currently provide for mandatory indication of origin of the product in question. The requirement often relates to the designation of the “country of origin”6 , but sometimes other expressions, such as the “place of provenance”, for foods, are also used. Subject to any specific provision to the contrary in the relevant provisions of Union legislation, in principle determination of the country of origin of foods will be based on the Union’s non-preferential rules of origin laid-down in customs legislation.

5. When the indication of origin of the product in question is explicitly required by the relevant provisions of Union law, it must be correct and not misleading for the consumer.

6. When the indication of origin is not mandatory, if the origin is provided on a voluntary basis, the information must be correct and not misleading for the consumer.

7. Since the Golan Heights and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) are not part of the Israeli territory according to international law, the indication ‘product from Israel’ is considered to be incorrect and misleading in the sense of the referenced legislation.

8. To the extent that the indication of the origin is mandatory, another expression will have to be used, which takes into account how these territories are often known.

9. For products from Palestine that do not originate from settlements, an indication which does not mislead about the geographical origin, while corresponding to international practice, could be ‘product from the West Bank (Palestinian product)’, ‘product from Gaza’ or ‘product from Palestine’.

10. For products from the West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from the Golan Heights’ or ‘product from the West Bank’ would not be acceptable. Even if they would designate the wider area or territory from which the product originates, the omission of the additional geographical information that the product comes from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product. 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.

11. In any event, in accordance with Union consumer protection legislation, indication of origin becomes mandatory when, as regards food, the omission of that information would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product, and, as regards all other goods, when information is omitted that is material, according to the context, to take an informed transactional decision and thereby causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision that he would not have taken otherwise. In such cases the examples in previous paragraph would be relevant.

12. Information on origin is often available to economic operators in various forms. In many cases information on the origin of products can be found on customs documentation. If they benefit from preferential treatment on importation, the products will be accompanied by proof of preferential origin issued by Israel, or by the Palestinian authorities. Other documents such as invoices, delivery notes and transport documents may provide an indication of the origin products. If the information is not readily available from accompanying documents, economic operators may request information on origin, directly from their suppliers or importers.

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