BRUSSELS - The EU moved closer to a trade deal with the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday after unanimous backing from European lawmakers to fully open markets to farm and fish products from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The 27-0 vote by the European Parliament's international trade committee paves the way for full parliamentary approval for a deal later this year, signaling EU support for the Palestinian Authority as it prepares to bid next month for statehood recognition at the United Nations.
While small -- trade between the EU and the West Bank and Gaza was worth 60 million euros in 2009, of which just 10 percent constituted Palestinian exports to the EU -- the move nonetheless represents an opportunity for exports to boost an economy weakened by chronic conflict with Israel.
"This deal is enormously important. It gives more power to the Palestinians to trade directly with the EU. And it's a signal of good will from the international community that comes at an important time," said Maria Eleni Koppa, a Greek socialist lawmaker who led the committee's discussion on the issue.