EU Court Sides With European Citizens in Settlement Trade Case

Ivar Ekeland, President of AURDIP, declared: “The case in question is emblematic of the hostility of governments to citizen initiatives. A group of EU citizens called on the European Commission to pas a law banning commerce with Israeli settlements. The Commission used a specious argument to declare the initiative inadmissible. Once more this shows the extent to which our governments are cut off from the wishes of their populations and dominated by political and industrial lobbies. This growing disconnect can only lead to political upheaval.”

ECCP, Brussels, 13 May 2021 – Yesterday , the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg annulled a decision of the European Commission to refuse registration of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) asking the Commission to initiate legislation to prevent trade between the EU and illegal settlements in occupied territories.

Maître Gilles Devers, representing the claimants, said:

“My clients welcome the ruling of the General Court. EU citizens have a fundamental right to take part in the democratic life of the European Union. By refusing to register their European citizens’ initiative, the European Commission deprived my clients of their fundamental right to provoke a debate amongst EU institutions on trade with occupied territories. They are now expecting the European Commission to uphold its responsibilities and register their initiative”.

By yesterday’s ruling, the Court finds that the European Commission has grossly failed its duty to state the reasons for its refusal to register the ECI, hindering the participation of European citizens in democratic life.

Tom Moerenhout, a representative of the Citizens’ Committee explains:

“The European Commission has consistently evaded accountability. When member states wanted to stop trade with illegal settlements, the Commission said trade is its exclusive competence. When we asked the Commission to stop trade with illegal settlements, they said this was a matter of sanctions which are the competence of the European Council. That is evading accountability in bad faith.”

Fatin Al Tamimi, Chairperson of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign said:

“Given the previous stance of the European Commission on national measures prohibiting trade with occupied territories, such as the Occupation Bill in Ireland, it will be very interesting to see the European Commission explaining why an EU measure on trade with occupied territories falls outside the Common Commercial Policy while it has actually repeatedly claimed in the past that equivalent measures at the national level would infringe on the Commission’s exclusive competence of the EU over trade. The Commission even threatened to take member states to EU Courts.”

Now, the Commission will have to adopt a new decision regarding this Citizen’ Initiative, addressing the arguments of the applicants as well as the shortcomings identified by the Court.

Also see the case summary published by the European Legal Support Center (ELSC). The ELSC has assisted the 7 EU citizens in the preparation of the Initiative in its very initial stages and has then supported the Citizens’ Committee throughout the entire court case with legal research, analysis and advice.