New EU guidelines for products from Israeli settlements

Food labeling measure widely seen as attempt to put political pressure on Israel

The Department of Foreign Affairs has contacted all Government departments asking them to publicise new European Union guidelines for labelling products made in Israeli settlements.

The guidelines, published last month, set out how farm produce and other goods from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law, should be labelled if they are sold in the EU. While the European Commission presented them as a clarification of existing policy, the guidelines were widely seen as a way of applying political pressure on Israel, which had fiercely opposed them.

Importers and retailers

Ireland

was one of 16 EU states that pressed EU foreign affairs chief

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Federica Mogherini

to push through the EU-level guidelines. Their introduction does not require a change in the law, but a number of states are taking steps to draw the attention of importers and retailers to the advice.

To that end, the secretary general of the Department of Foreign Affairs has written to the heads of all Government departments asking them to bring the guidelines to the attention of relevant bodies dealing with labelling or consumer protection. The advisory notice will also be posted on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs, a spokeswoman said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan welcomed the publication of the guidelines, saying it was a move he had pressed for and supported. "It is a continuation of the ongoing policy of differentiating the EU's relationship with Israel, from the relationship with Occupied Territories," he said.

Sanctions

Mr Flanagan said that by focusing on the settlements, “which are illegal, we are underlining that that is the focus of our attention and not conflating these actions with actions proposed by some against Israel. Ireland does not support sanctions against Israel and I have stated this repeatedly in the Dáil.”

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the guidelines “hypocritical and a double standard”, saying the EU was not taking similar steps in hundreds of territorial conflicts elsewhere.

Last month the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that as part of Israel's diplomatic response to the EU decision, Irish Ambassador Alison Kelly would be summoned to the foreign ministry and told that any meetings she planned for herself or visiting Irish officials would be restricted to low-tier diplomats.

Similar measures would be taken against all 16 EU states that urged the EU to adopt the guidelines, it reported.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is an Assistant Editor of The Irish Times