Half of European Union states notified EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton of their support for local businesses to label products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At this point, those states are asking Ashton to form agreed-upon guidelines before taking any real action.
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On Friday afternoon, the French news agency published a letter sent to Ashton on April 12, bearing the signatures of 13 out of 27 EU foreign ministers. Among those who signed the letter were the foreign ministers of Britain, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Denmark, Malta, Luxembourg, Belgium, Portugal, Finland, Ireland, and Slovenia.
"We warmly welcome your commitment to work with fellow commissioners to prepare EU-wide guidelines on the labeling of settlement produce," read the letter sent to Asthon. "This is an important step to ensure correct and coherent application of EU consumer protection and labeling legislation, which is in fulfillment 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,".
At the beginning of March, the Dutch government created guidelines for its private sector regarding labeling products from Israeli settlements. The Netherlands was the second nation to do so following Britain, which has had such policies for a few years.
According to the guidelines, the following products will be marked: Fresh vegetables and fruit, wine, honey, olive oil, fish, beef, chicken, eggs, as well as cosmetics produced in the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. It is forbidden to label these goods as products of Israel - rather they must be baled as being produced in “Israel settlements in the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Palestinian territories.”
A few days after the guidelines were released, the Dutch government backtracked, and claimed that the new guidelines were not an official order, rather a draft that is still being developed and tested. The Netherlands, which was startled by Israel’s fierce reaction, decided to stall the move in order to win the support of other European nations.
The letter sent by the 13 foreign ministers is another step toward labeling products produced in the settlements. The letter does not include any official decision or order, but rather a request that Asthon come up with general guidelines and rules that could be adopted by the entire EU in the future.