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The long road to labeling settlement products

In a discussion with Al-Monitor, Charles Shamas, a Palestinian entrepreneur involved in exporting Palestinian products to Europe, traced the path to the European Union guidelines for labeling settlement products.

The European Commission's Nov. 11 “interpretive notice” clarifying “the application of existing [European] Union legislation on indication of origin of products to products originating in Israeli-occupied territories” was not arrived at quickly or easily. In fact, it dates back to the mid-1980s.

In 1986, an issue emerged involving the legalities of how a Palestinian manufacturer in Ramallah could export its products to the European Economic Community (EEC), the EU's predecessor. In 1995, the question arose as to why EU customs officials were failing to collect duties on Israeli settlement products because the settlements were not considered part of Israel, which had a preferential trade agreement with the EU. In 2012, discussion revolved around whether EU law permitted EU-funded support to activities and operations in settlements. The product labeling issue emerged as one of how the origin of items produced in Israeli settlements should be accurately identified — as all products must be under EU law — so as not to mislead European consumers.

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