Thursday, 2 December 2021
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
74. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to a decision by the Belgian Government to intensify its scrutiny of all goods originating in Israel in order to ensure that all products from illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are excluded from preferential trade tariffs under the EU-Israel Association Agreement; if he will consult with his Belgian colleague and other like-minded European Union states in the context of the recently registered European Citizen’s Initiative to develop an European Union legal proposal to ban trade with these settlements; if he considers such leadership from Ireland appropriate in view of the strong support of the Houses of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [59650/21]
I am aware of the steps taken by the Belgian Government regarding implementation of differentiation policy, including the labelling of goods from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Belgium and Ireland work closely together at EU level and our officials engage regularly on a range of issues, including Belgium’s approach to the longstanding policy of differentiation.
Ireland distinguishes in all of its dealings between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2334, adopted on 23 December 2016. This Resolution reflected the position already held by Ireland, the EU and the UN for many years.
Regarding the European Citizens’ Initiative, following its registration the organisers must now gather one million signatures in support in order for it to proceed further. Ireland has previously raised at EU level the question of whether goods from occupied territories, including from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, should be excluded from the EU market altogether. However, it is clear that at present there is no possibility of getting substantial support, still less consensus, for such a proposal.
We have therefore instead focused our advocacy on practical measures to differentiate in EU policies between Israel itself and the illegal settlements. This has resulted in a number of EU measures already, including guidelines on the labelling of settlement goods (so that consumers can identify them and make their own choices in this matter), and exclusion of settlement institutions from EU research funding.
Settlement goods are already excluded from the normal lower tariffs applying to goods from Israel and other countries with which the EU has trade agreements, when they are imported into the EU.
I have directed my officials to continue to explore further such options, as well as the potential for them to gain support from EU partners.