Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Middle East Issues

Photo of Cian O'CallaghanCian O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay North, Social Democrats)
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42. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if the issue of an EU wide ban on the importation of goods from occupied territories has been raised with his European counterparts in view of the support for the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018 in Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6981/20]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Ireland has a very clear  position on Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory and the Golan Heights. They are illegal under international law, notably being contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and actively undermine the prospects for a two-state solution.

As I have said many times in the Dáil, the regulation of international trade, including in relation to settlement goods, is a matter of exclusive EU competence. The Occupied Territories Bill asks the Government to do something which is not legally in its power. The European Commission confirmed to the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence in June of last year that "...the EU has exclusive competence on the common commercial policy, and that as a customs union, the EU applies common arrangements for imports of goods from third countries uniformly across the Union. In principle, only the EU can decide to prohibit the importation of goods and services and not the Member States individually."

To introduce such an EU-wide ban on the importation of settlement goods would require consensus among EU Member States, and the political will for such a policy does not exist. For that reason, I have focused my energies at EU level on other aspects of the Israel-Palestine issue, in order to ensure the best possible policy outcomes.

As it stands, however, EU law does already make a meaningful distinction between Israel, and settlements in occupied territory. This distinction has important practical effects. Since settlements are not part of Israel, the EU-Israel Association Agreement does not apply to them. This means that different tariffs apply to goods from settlements, and settlements are not eligible for participation in EU-Israel programmes.

Ireland has been vigilant to ensure that EU law in this regard is upheld. For example, in 2018, Ireland, as an interested Member State, lodged observations in a case which was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union, challenging the implementation of EU rules on the labelling of foodstuffs originating from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. The court’s judgment, issued on 12 November 2019, confirmed that foodstuffs originating in territories occupied by the State of Israel, must bear the indication of their territory of origin, and when these products originate from an Israeli settlement, this must also be made clear on the label. Clear and non-misleading indication of origin for certain goods is an essential part of the EU's consumer policy.

EU law and guidelines on goods from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory clearly differentiate between settlements on the one hand, and Israel, on the other. As such, they are an important part of the EU constribution to the implmentation of UN Security Council Resolution 2334. Ireland will maintain its vigilance to ensure full implementation of these laws and guidelines. 

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