A group of 46 Members of the European Parliament sent a letter to EC Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis asking to “send a WTO-compatible proposal to the European Parliament and Council that would ban trade with, and support for, settlements in territories deemed illegally occupied under international law”.
This cross party initiative was endorsed by MEPs from the Renew, The Greens, S&D , GUE/NGL on EPP groups at the EPP. The MEPs letter reminds that it is “EU competence under Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to take decisions regarding the rules applied to goods entering into the European Single Market and Customs Union, jointly by the European Council and European Parliament”.
The European Union does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the oPT and condemns the Israeli politics of annexation. Under international law, trade with settlements is a violation of the obligation of non-recognition and non-assistance to settlement activities.
The MEPs letter comes a few days after the Kingdom of Morocco officially normalised relations with Israel in exchange for US recognition of Morocco sovereignty over the occupied territory of Western Sahara, illegal under international law. In that move, both countries are normalising their decades-long occupation of territories where illegally built settlements are profiting and thriving from trade with the EU.
Currently Ireland, has on its legislative agenda a Draft Bill to ban trade with Occupied Territories in order to have national trade legislation and practice compliant with international law and Ireland policies.
In February 2020, the UN published a list of 112 Israeli and multinational companies, including 8 domiciled in the European Union, that are directly and indirectly involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and associated violations of international law.
Already in 2015 several dozen prominent legal experts from across the world have written to the EU and its Member States alerting to comply with their fundamental legal obligations resulting from the duty of non-recognition and non-assistance to illegal Israeli settlements and their economic activity and therefore to impose an import ban on settlement products.
Last year the European Commission refused to register a Citizens’ Initiative proposed by a group of European citizens, who requested that the EC regulate trade between the EU and occupied territories. In its refusal the EC argued that it does not have competence to propose sanctions.
However the citizens’ initiative was not about sanctions, but merely about applying the EU’s own trade regulations to protect European consumers from illegal trade and guarantee the integrity of the internal market and the EU’s duties of non recognition and non-assistance to the maintenance of unlawful situations under international law.
Following its refusal, the initiators of the Initiative filed a complaint against the European Commission before the European Court of Justice.
In January the official public hearing will take place on the matter and the final ruling is expected for April next year.