BRUSSELS (EJP)---“There’s no common position in the EU Council” on the viability of it supporting the ACAA agreement on European trade with Israel at the European Parliament (EP)’s plenary vote on the issue next week, Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis told Thursday a meeting of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
The European Parliament will vote on October 23 regarding the EU-Israel agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products (ACAA).
Answering a question by Portuguese Socialist committee member Ana Gomes, on the inherent “contradictions” of the Council supporting an agreement that upgrades trade relations with Israel, whilst simultaneously regularly criticising it for its settlement activity, the representative from the current Cyprus EU presidency admitted that whilst “some individual members have taken a strong position and have implemented decisions on products originating from the occupied territories and settlements”, there was by no means any unanimity within the Council at this stage.
The UK already uses specific labels for settlement manufactured products and Denmark has announced plans to follow suit imminently.
Outside the EU, South Africa also provoked a diplomatic dispute with Israel earlier this year with the its plans to introduce label settlement products.
Kozakou-Marcoullis’s comments will have come as a huge blow to supporters of the agreement ahead of the parliament plenary session’s planned vote on the bill next Tuesday.
Approval of the stalled bill, first passed on for signing by the European Council in May 2010, and later by the European Parliament’s international trade committee last month, by a margin of 15 votes in favour to 13 against and two abstentions, had raised hopes of the proposed bill finally being ratified.
The progress of ACAA, the agreement on conformity assessment and acceptance which would automatically certify medically safe Israeli products as such with EU member states, has so far been held up by apparent politically-motivated concerns following the deterioration of Europe’s relationship with Israel in light of the West Bank settlement activity.
Whilst critics of the bill argue that passing it would serve to legitimise Israel’s contested settlement building activity, those in favour contend that as the bill constitutes an add-on to the existing EU-Israel Association Agreement, which already calls on Israel “to observe international human rights law and its position on West Bank territories, this is not a valid negation.
However, foreign affairs committee member Veronique De Keyser, a Socialist MEP from Belgium, has issued written objections to the likely applications of the proposed bill, contending that “at the present Israel applies all the agreements concluded with the EU in the whole of “the territory of the State of Israel” as defined in Israeli national law, “including the territories it has occupied since 1967.”
The EU does not recognise Israel’s application of these agreements to the occupied territories, nor does it recognise any Israeli legislation advocating the annexation and settlement of those territories” – implying that Israel does not feel compelled to abide by international human rights law in its activities in the West Bank and can therefore not be held to account by the EU.
Refuting allegations that the EU was powerless to enforce its criticisms of Israeli settlement activity, from various council members, however, Kozakou-Marcoullis insisted: “We have adopted very strong positions on the settlements and of course on the two state solution that we abide by.”
“Of course, on settlements our position is very clear as the ouncil on every occasion both in conclusions and statements by (EU foreign policy chief) Mrs Ashton and representatives of member states, it is reiterated that this is unacceptable and a violation of international law. Our position is very clear, and was reiterated in the strongest possible terms in the May conclusions of the Council,” the Cypriot minister concluded.