ICEJ symposium exposes political nature of EU labeling directive

THE ECONOMIC WALL OF THE EU LABELING MOVE

 

EU Symposium

ICEJ Press Statement
Brussels, December 2, 2015


 

On Wednesday, December 2, 2015, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) held a symposium at the European Parliament in Brussels, titled “The Economic Wall of the EU Labeling Move” hosted by MEP Takkula (ALDE, FI) and MEP Belder (ECR, NL). Main speakers included renowned international legal expert, Prof. Avi Bell, Greek Orthodox priest and founder of the Israeli Christian Empowerment Council (ICRF), Father Gabriel Naddaf, and the Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Binyomin Jacobs.

MEP Hannu Takkula opened the first session of the symposium, expressing his concerns that the labeling guidelines will have enormous impacts for the EU and Israel relations. “Until now, we have been creating a good base for co-operation between EU and Israel but this labeling move will not only harm the economic relations, but also will have an unfortunate impact on the co-operation in every field.” 

MEP Bas Belder (ECR, NL) noted the mutual high concern by colleague MEPs about the ineffective recent EU labeling move and how it damages EU-Israel relations as well as any prospects for the Middle East peace process. “Which the EU is so naively forcing to restart. The labeling move will certainly not help. It’s counter-productive,” remarked Belder.

A statement by Dr. Jürgen Bühler, Executive Director of ICEJ, was presented which noted that the EU interpretative notice will only divide Israelis and Palestinians further and hurt those it claims to help. “Despite EU efforts to downplay the political nature of the labeling move, it is clear that the guidelines have been formulated to apply pressure on Israelis and they violate the rules of the World Trade Organization,” said Dr. Bühler ahead of the symposium.

Prof. Avi Bell clarified how the Commission’s interpretative notice violates international law. “While the interpretive notice restricts labels on Israeli products, EU law permits Taiwan and the Palestinian Authority to market products in the EU with ‘made in Taiwan’ and ‘made in Palestine’ labels that contradict EU views on sovereignty, according to which neither is an independent state. Indeed, the same interpretive notice which claims that European consumers will be misled by ‘made in Israel’ labels on Israeli products from Israeli businesses in the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, will not be misled by ‘made in Palestine’ labels on identical products made by their Arab neighbors in the Christian quarter of the Old City.”

Father Gabriel Naddaf spoke strongly against the labeling, emphasizing the inevitable harmful outcome: "As a Christian leader, raised in Nazereth, living among the Arab Muslims, I tell you clearly: this decision affects Muslims, Christians, Druze, and all other minority citizens of Israel, not just the Jews. This labeling of Israeli products is a further betrayal of Christian values in Europe, and it further weakens the Christian spirit in Europe." Father Naddaf called the move to label Israeli goods “a racist, anti-Semitic decision.”

Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Binyomin Jacobs pointed at the tensions that the recent EU move has created within Europe, with Hungary and Merkel’s party opposing it. “Negativity and hostility always work both ways – internally as well as externally,” Jacobs noted.

MEP Takkula added: “As a member of the WTO, we should follow the equal treatment rule among all of our trade partners. The interpretation we are now guided to follow doesn't fulfil this requirement.” MEP Takkula hopes that Member States of the European union will not make the situation worse with more strict interpretation, but will do their share to help the market gain access to the Palestinian products. MEP Belder stressed that, “Israel and the EU equally benefit from the cooperation in security, trade and science and technology sectors – just to name a few. The wide array of relations we share with the Jewish State are essential to Europe.”

In his statement, Dr. Bühler of ICEJ also noted that Israel’s thriving economy has produced a climate of coexistence that is unmatched throughout the Middle East. “It is the only place in the region where [all] can enjoy full democratic rights and equal access to education and economic development,” said Dr. Bühler.

 

 



Brussels Symposium

ICEJ Position Paper on EU Labeling
The ICEJ presented a position paper in Brussels exposing the counter-productive agenda behind the EU labeling directive and proposing alternate strategies for peace and cooperation.
Read here