The European Union plans to take more measures against products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria.
Several weeks ago, the EU announced that it would label such products as being made in the “occupied territories,” in order to “give European consumers full information when making buying choices,” EU officials said.
Israeli officials believe an official announcement on the matter is imminent. The officials said that the labeling rule would be set as a recommendation, not a requirement, so that specific countries would be free not to use the labels
According to Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU's ambassador to Israel, Europe was planning to take additional steps regarding such products. “There will be further steps down the road,” he told a gathering of Israeli business and government officials Monday morning, although he declined to specify what they would be.
According to Faaborg-Andersen, it was Israel itself that started the ball rolling on labeling the products. In 2005, he said, Israel said that its trade agreements with the EU did not encompass products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria, and that they did not qualify for tax and import duty breaks. That decision was made during the administration of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose Finance Minister was Ehud Olmert. Olmert has since been convicted of several bribe-related felonies.
According to Faaborg-Andersen, the labeling was necessary because it was the EU's responsibility to inform consumers as to the origin of the products – and that international law required labeling products made in “disputed” areas. But several Israeli legal experts slammed Faaborg-Andersen for the EU's decision.
Professor Aryeh Reich of Bar Ilan University, an expert in international trade, said that there was no regulation requiring labeling products made in such areas, and that the EU was itself guilty of violating international agreements by funding Palestinian building in Area C of Judea and Samaria, which under the internationally recognized Oslo Accords is under Israeli civilian and military control.
Professor Eugene Kontorovich of Northwestern University said that the EU was discriminating against Israel, as it had not demanded that products made in other disputed areas of the world be labeled as such.
Among those areas was the Western Sahara, which Morocco is occupying, and exports a large amount of fish products to the EU. Nevertheless, despite being produced in disputed areas, Moroccan fish sourced in the Western Sahara is not marked as such.
In response, Faaborg-Andersen said that “area is completely different,” although he declined to elaborate on those differences.