Catherine Ashton
Catherine AshtonAFP photo

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is pushing for comprehensive guidelines to introduce separate labeling for products made by Jews in Judea and Samaria,  Israeli-daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

According to the report. Ashton sent a letter to European commissioners urging them to draft the guidelines by the end of 2013.

The EU last week published guidelines that forbid the 28 members of the bloc from funding or dealing with Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, alleging that the areas are “illegally occupied.”

Haaretz quoted Ashton on Tuesday as saying in the letter that EU member states must ensure "the correct labeling of imported products originating beyond Israel's pre-1967 borders that are marketed as Israeli products."

"The Commission needs to ensure effective implementation of existing legislation relevant for the correct labeling of settlement products by adopting EU guidelines and other implementing acts."

Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor called the decision tantamount to "discrimination" against Israel.

"If it's necessary to inform the consumer of the origin of the product in question, the EU should put out universal laws for all disputed territories in Europe and all over the world. But making legislation for one single country or territory is institutionalizing discrimination," he told AFP.

Ashton's spokeswoman confirmed EU intentions to label the Israeli products.

"We have committed to correctly implement the EU legislation relevant for origin labeling," Maja Kocijancic told AFP.

However, she said it was "too early to confirm the timeline for the next steps."

Another European official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said EU foreign ministers supported the labeling initiative, and also stressed there was no timeline.

"EU foreign ministers wish to have guidelines that would give indications" on how to proceed labeling settlement products, the official said, according to AFP.

"The work is currently ongoing and there is no real timeline. Nobody wants to give too concrete a timeline."

On July 19, the EU's Official Journal published a separate set of guidelines forbidding members from funding or dealing with Israeli communities over the Green Line in any form.

"The EU does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over... 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 law," the preamble to the guidelines said.

Israeli experts said last week that the implications of the policy could have a major impact on how Israel does business with the EU.

For example, Holocaust survivors who have accounts in banks in areas like Ramat Eshkol – considered “occupied” under the EU guidelines – may find that their reparation payments are held up, as Germany, an EU member, would refuse to transfer money to such banks. Israeli owners of property in Europe who love in Judea and Samaria could find themselves unable to collect rent from their properties, as European courts would not enforce those contracts. The policy, experts say, could cause a “legal morass” that would tie up courts in Israel and the EU for years.