US: EU product labeling is not a boycott of Israel

Israel has suspended diplomatic dialogue with the EU for a few weeks to protest the labeling measure, which has been in the works since 2012.

November 13, 2015 12:29
3 minute read.
EU Israel

EU Commission approves Israeli 'settlement' product guidelines (Illustrative picture)‏. (photo credit: REUTERS,JPOST STAFF)

The European Union's guidelines on consumer labels for Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines is not tantamount to a boycott of Israel, Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post.

"We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott. And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel,” Vasquez said.

The EU has also insisted that the measure is not a boycott of Israel and that their concern is the consumer’s right to know as well as compliance with EU legislation.

Israel has warned that such labels strengthen the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and other such extremist groups that want to stop shoppers from buying Israeli products all together.

The Foreign Ministry has explained that Israel is the only country, among 200 nations with territorial disputes, in which the EU has agreed to place consumer labels.

It has suspended diplomatic dialogue with the EU for a few weeks to protest the measure, which has been in the works since 2012.

Vasquez said on Thursday, "We continue to oppose boycotts against Israel and any effort to delegitimize Israel.

”We are aware of the EU’s note clarifying existing labeling guidelines from 2012. We understand the objective is to provide EU consumers correct information on the origin of products, as required by EU law. The EU has made clear that measures are not a boycott, and the EU has also made very clear that they oppose boycotts against Israel."

"EU guidelines for products that are sold in EU countries are for the EU to determine. The EU note is a technical clarification of existing regulations, not a new measure.”

The guidelines left the decision regarding placing consumer labels on products to member states.

Labeling is mandatory, the commission said, for fresh fruit, vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry, organic produce and cosmetics.

For packaged food and other products, it is voluntary, unless its omission misleads the consumer into believing that the product was produced in Israel.

The commission provided examples of appropriate labels and stressed that it is important to distinguish between the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

For the latter, the label should read, “Product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement).”

For the former it should say, “Product from West Bank (Israeli settlement),” unless it is from the Palestinian territories, in which case it should say “product from West Bank (product from Palestine)” or “Product from West Bank (Palestinian product).” It could also say, “Product from Gaza (Palestinian product)” or “(product from Palestine).”

The commission noted that this designation “shall not be construed as recognition of a state of Palestine.”

The United Kingdom, Denmark and Brussels already place consumer labels on products from over the pre-1967 lines.

Many other member states have waited for the guidelines before taking action.

Since 2003, the EU has placed numerical codes on products from over the pre-1967 lines, so that custom officials would know not to include those items in the EU’s Free Trade Agreement with Israel, which is limited to areas within the Green Line. But these guidelines mark the first time that consumers will also have that information.

The issue was first raised by European foreign ministers at a time when the peace process was frozen. Work on the guidelines was suspended in 2013 at the request of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was brokering a nine-month period of negotiations that ended in failure in April 2014.

In the absence of a renewed peace process, European foreign ministers asked EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the European Commission to push forward on publication of the guidelines.

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