EU foreign ministers want West Bank settlement goods labelled
(JERUSALEM) - EU foreign ministers, among them Britain's William Hague and Laurent Fabius of France, have said they will back EU efforts to label products from Israel's settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to a letter obtained by AFP on Friday.
Israel complained that the initiative was discriminatory and unfair.
"We warmly welcome your commitment to work with fellow commissioners to prepare EU-wide guidelines on the labelling of settlement produce," said the letter by 13 ministers, addressed to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and dated April 12.
"This is an important step to ensure correct and coherent application of EU consumer protection and labelling legislation, which is in fulfilment of our previous commitments and is fully consistent with long-standing EU policy in relation to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."
"We stand ready to assist you in taking forward this important work," added the signatories, which also included the chief diplomats of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland and Slovenia.
Britain and Denmark have been at the forefront of calls for clear and unambiguous labelling of settlement products.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Friday that, by concentrating on Israel, the campaign was unfair.
"This whole labelling initiative is fundamentally discriminatory as it singles out one country and one area for labelling," he told AFP. "Surely the EU feels strongly about quite a wide number of areas in controversy around the world and indeed in Europe itself."
"If the labelling initiative had been universal and should it affect all controversial areas then it would have been a fair measure," he added.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem are illegal under international law, and goods produced there are not eligible for the same preferential tariffs enjoyed by Israeli exports to the EU.
According to 2012 World Bank figures, the EU imports 230 million euros ($300 million) of goods a year from Israeli settlements -- or 15 times more than from Palestinians themselves.