EU trade relations with Israel

Since I have received a volume of correspondence on the Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (CAA), specifically on the proposed upgrade to trade relations with Israel, I thought it would be helpful to set out Labour MEPs’ views on this blog.

The Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (CAA) is a proposed Protocol to the existing Euro-Mediterranean Agreement and not a separate Agreement in itself, although it has also been referred to as ACAA.

The proposed Protocol is intended to eliminate technical barriers to trade in industrial products between the European Union and the State of Israel. It largely applies to pharmaceutical products, and is intended to align certain assessment standards in order to facilitate trade. In effect this means some of the benefits of the EU internal market would be extended to Israel, and would offer Israeli pharmaceutical companies easier access to the EU market.

Negotiations on the Protocol between the European Commission and Israel began in 2008 and concluded in 2009. The European Parliament was then required in 2010 to give its consent before the Protocol could be adopted. The International Trade committee of the Parliament decided to ‘freeze’ the decision-making process, and the item was not discussed again until 2011 when the procedure was re-started after the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) – the parliamentary grouping which includes the UK Liberal Democrats – changed their position on the dossier.

Many parliamentary groupings in the European Parliament including ALDE and the European Conservatives and Reformists, which includes the UK Conservatives, consider CAA a technical upgrade. The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), and the Socialists and Democrat group (S&D) of which we are a member, do not believe it is a technical agreement but rather a clear upgrade of trade relations with Israel which should not be approved.

The EPLP believes all EU external policy, including trade, must be coherent with our human rights policies. Any upgrade of trade relations with Israel in the context of the Gaza blockade and the illegal settlements is unacceptable and incompatible with recent European Parliament declarations denouncing the abuse of human rights in the occupied territories. Furthermore, the EU – Israel Association Agreement requires relations between the EU and Israel to be based on the respect for human rights, and any upgrade to this Agreement would be inappropriate at this time.

The rapporteur (MEP responsible for the dossier) has proposed a two year delay on the Parliament vote in order to allow more time for compliance with international law by Israel. David Martin MEP, EPLP spokesperson for international trade, has raised our concerns over this Protocol several times during discussions in the trade committee, and supports the delay in the vote. You may be interested to see his intervention: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/committees/video?event=20120327-1500-COMMITTEE-INTA&category=COMMITTEE&format=wmv

In July the European Parliament formally asked the European Commission for reassurances that goods from the Occupied Territories would not enter the EU under this preferential scheme. David Martin again spoke on behalf of the EPLP to reiterate that although these assurances would be welcome, he is still opposed to the entire Agreement for political reasons. You may be interested in the debate and his intervention here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ep-live/en/plenary/video?debate=1341334304140

Socialist and Democrat MEPs voted in favour of the two year delay in a recent vote in the International Trade committee. However the Protocol was unfortunately adopted by a majority of the liberal and conservative groups. The CAA will now be voted on by the whole European Parliament in its upcoming plenary session in Strasbourg next week.

Labour MEPs will continue to raise our objections to this Protocol and I will, of course, vote in line with my EPLP colleagues.

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “EU trade relations with Israel

  1. Sue

    Thank you so much for the just and positive response. Millions worldwide will back you all the way. Naturally, once Israel adheres to its obligations under international /humanitarian law, we will change our position.

  2. Andy Gill

    You didn’t say this when you voted on Morocco, which ahs been condemned for its abuses of human rights in Western Sahara.. You are applying different standards to Israel, which is anti-semitic.

  3. Alex Pilcher

    @Andy Gill: I have no idea whether you are correct in saying that Mary Honeyball has applied different standards in her attitude to Israel and Morocco. But, whether the charge is true or not, why on earth do you leap to the conclusion that this is a sign of anti-semitism. Accuse her of inconsistency or hypocrisy if you really must, or suspect her of basing her priorities on some sort of political expediency rather than a disinterested Kantian moral framework, but please give us a break from this ridiculous notion that Israel must not be called out for its manifest crimes against the Palestinian people unless, in the same breath, one lists every other state on the planet that has committed similar or worse crimes. If you stop suspecting the majority of the planet of being anti-semitic then you might find it’s possible to have a reasoned discussion about human rights in the Middle East.

  4. Ben

    As a party member I am concerned and alarmed by this approach. It is not the way to treat the Middle East’s most democratic nation.

  5. Den

    @Alex Pilcher: come on Alex, get off your high horse – you only need to look at the UN to see that any possibility of “reasoned discussion about human rights in the Middle East” is oxymoronic. Israel’s dilemma is and always has been existential – end of story.

  6. Geoffrey Marsh

    This vote should be delayed until the illegal settlement in the occupied territories are removed.

  7. Rosamine

    The EU has to stand up against decades long intransigence regarding its illegal occupation and frenzied settlement expansion, in total defiance of over 65 UN resolutions and 4th Geneva Convention. It makes a mockery of the democracy that it claims to be with its apartheid laws (well documented and in practice daily). If it wishes to be accepted as a democratic state and wants EU privileges and status, it has to conform to full human rights requirements for all its citizens and not only its Jewish citizens. Therefore the delay in the vote is imperative.

  8. Adam

    Rosamine

    The “occupation” is not illegal.

    A commission led last year by the respected former Israeli Supreme Court justice Edmund Levy concluded that “Israeli settlements are legal under international law.”

    “The oft-used term ‘occupied Palestinian territories’ has no basis whatsoever in law or fact,” Alan Baker, director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a member of Levy’s commission, wrote recently in USA Today.

    “The territories are neither occupied nor are they Palestinian. No legal determination has ever been made as to their sovereignty, and by agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, they are no more than ‘disputed’ pending a negotiated solution, with both sides claiming rights to the territory.”

    Baker adds that Israel has “solid legal rights” to the territory, including “the rights granted to the Jewish people by the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1923 San Remo Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate instrument and the United Nations Charter,” and that the Oslo agreements “contain no prohibition whatsoever on building settlements in those parts of the territory agreed upon as remaining under Israel’s control.”

    Consequently, the 4th Geneva Convention is not being contravened, and you need to learn the difference between Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 resolutions.

    Your disgusting claim that only Jewish citizens are afforded equal rights is a lie. Equal rights are guaranteed by law, and Israel is a democratic land of law.

    You may wish to investigate the blatant apartheid of the Palestinian Authority (let alone Hamas), which has, as a matter of policy, forbidden any Jew the right to live anywhere in territory it administers. (20% of Israel is Palestinian Arab – 0% of Palestinian administered areas are Jewish).

  9. Rosamine

    Adam, thanks for putting in writing the whole Israeli Hasbara to deny the undisputed facts of innumerable bodies who are the real experts in International Law and the Geneva Conventions. The 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice, which is the basic judgement, on the complete illegality of the Separation Wall and all the settlements in the occupied territories – accepted by all countries (except for Israel) – shows up Edmund Levy’s assessment as completely absurd. This is apart from all the UN resolutions since 1947 and innumerable judgements and reports from UN and international human rights bodies – including Israeli human rights organisations such as B’Tselem – which override all the claims for legality made by Israel about the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations, etc. etc.

  10. Adam

    Rosamine

    You clearly have no idea what hasbara means.

    I note you make no mention of Palestinian apartheid against Jewish land rights, nor Palestinian laws which are discriminatory on racial grounds.

    That aside, you have not dealt with the substantive issues put to you. Instead, you cite other international bodies’ opinions (and they are opinions, not legally binding in any way) as “proof” of illegality, without entering into any details of law.

    Israel is not in breach of international law. It may be in breach of international opinion, but that is an entirely different matter. The security fence which you mention has saved the lives of thousands since it was put up – simply examine both Israeli and Palestinian casualties before, and after it was established.

    The “court” of which you speak so admiringly was chaired by a Chinese judge (i.e. a man who advanced in a legal system which executes more people than the rest of the world combined), with prosecutors from Cuba (a judicial system which imprisons people for the “wrong” political views). So please forgive me if I’m not in thrall of such an objective, morally grounded group of legal “experts” from despotic nations.

    Then you cite the UN, without naming which resolutions, nor which chapters they appear in. Indeed, UN resolution 242 makes it clear that there are Jewish land rights in Judea and Samaria (as do previous UN resolutions). There is no requirement to withdraw from all territoey, and any territorial concessions are to be part of a peace settlement. Israel did indeed withdraw from Gaza, and got Hamas in power and thousands of rockets in return – hardly a winning formula. Your “solution” is more of the same.

    You mindlessly repeat mantras which you have simply heard elsewhere. Please examine these issues in greater depth.

    Incidentally, the UN is comprised of a majority of tyrannical, non-democratic governments, and Israel has conveniently become their whipping boy. This is an organization which put Zimabwe in charge of economic development and placed Libya as chair of human rights. Again, sorry not to share your enthusiasm for such a basket case organization.

  11. Adam

    Rosamine, I have just noticed that you have a problem with the Balfour Declaration.

    Thank you. You have shown your true colours. This is nothing to do with a so-called “occupation”, and everything to do with Israel itself.

    By mentioning the Balfour Declaration, and indeed the League of Nations, you are disputing the existence of a Jewish state at all.

  12. Rosamine

    The existence of the State of Israel has been recognised by the United Nations and even the PLO and is not in dispute. Neither is there any doubt that Israel is illegally occupying the West Bank and Gaza. Israel itself has not kept to the principles of the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations not to harm the civil and religious rights of the indigenous Palestinian population. These have all been superseded in any case by the UN Partition Resolution of 1947 and reams of UN resolutions condemning Israel’s actions. Concern for the continued existence of Israel should be focused on its very actions which are doing a good job of delegitimising itself, becoming a pariah state, which might well lead to its eventual dismantling. So far Jewish ethics and morals do not appear to have been adhered to.

  13. Mikael Grut

    Adam, I don’t like the term “Jewish state” for Israel, because it makes second class citizens of Israel’s Christian and Moslem citizens. It is as if we would call Britain the “Anglican state”,

  14. Nadeem Shokat

    I always commend people who are brave enough to stand up to Israel and her American ally. The problem is as usual, the ‘powerful’ seem to do as they please while the rest of the World just watches in awe. Israel continuously sits on stolen land, continues building ILLEGAL settlements, continues her brutal oppression against the people of Palestine and the list goes on…

  15. martinwright210712678

    This argument is never going to get anywhere if it is conducted on legalistic lines. There are always counter-arguments, different interpretations of the law, and so on. An understanding of conflict resolution methods is needed. It should not be based on positions (demands, claims, assertions) but on needs and interests common to everyone (security, living in peace, earning a living, supporting a family, practising one’s religion). Gershon Baskin, the co-chairman of IPCRI (Israel-Palestine Center for research and Information) has recently written: “the hardest part is getting the two sides to move away from their positions in favor of providing real answers to their needs and interests. The parties have locked themselves into positions, often for reasons of internal politics, and in doing so they forget to really focus on their needs and interests.”

    One method is to ask people on each side to summarize the point of view of the other, in terms that are acceptable to the other. This can help them to understand where the other side is “coming from”. It also means focusing on “where do we go from here”, instead of on the mistakes, harassment and killing which both sides have done in the past.

    Would people on both sides of this debate like to have a go?

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