Brussels forum examines EU’s West Bank labeling rules

European Parliament lawmakers organized a symposium to examine new EU regulations that require separate labeling for Israeli settlement goods.

Approximately 120 people and European Parliament members from eight countries attended the symposium Wednesday in Brussels on the regulations published last month. The forum came amid internal debate within the European Union on the labeling, which prompted harsh condemnations from Israel and Jewish groups.

Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs addressed the internal tensions caused by the labeling. “Negativity and hostility always work both ways – internally as well as externally,” Jacobs said. He pleaded for Brussels to “emphasize the positive” coexistence of Jews and Arabs in Israel instead of promoting steps seen as targeting Israel.

The European Commission has argued its labeling regulations were designed to inform consumers of product provenance and not to punish Israel for its settlement policy. They require that products from the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights not be labeled as made in Israel. Products made by Israelis and Palestinians in those areas should be labeled to reflect those facts, the new regulations state.

The foreign minister of Greece, Nikos Kotzias, has informed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his country would not enforce the European Commission regulations, the Times of Israel reported Tuesday. Though the European Commission’s new regulations are legally binding, non-implementation by member states is unlikely to invoke sanctions by Brussels.

Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, also said his country opposes the regulations, as did the spokesman for Germany’s ruling party and the president of its parliament, Norbert Lammert.

The symposium was sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and hosted by Dutch European Parliament member Bas Belder and his Finnish colleague, Hannu Takkula.

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