Haaretz - EU court: No customs breaks for Israeli goods from settlements
- Haaretz -
Last update - 03:16 01/11/2009
EU court: No customs breaks for Israeli goods from settlements By Ora
Israeli goods produced in West Bank settlements are not eligible for
customs benefits in the European Union, stated an advocate general of
the European Court of Justice last week.
Israel and the EU have a free-trade agreement that gives Israeli exports
substantial customs breaks.
The advocate general's non-binding opinion, if followed, could mean that
goods produced in the territories may be saddled with full customs duties.
The opinion, submitted in a case in Germany brought by water
purification firm Brita in 2002, could serve as a precedent in the EU.
The company was ordered to pay 19,155 euros in customs for equipment it
imported from the Israeli firm Soda Club, whose factory is in the West Bank.
German customs authorities asked Israeli authorities whether the goods
were produced in the territories, and when no answer was received, Brita
was ordered to pay customs duties.
Brita then appealed the decision to the German court system, and the
Finance Court in Hamburg requested advice on the matter from European
Union legal authorities.
In the past, EU authorities have ruled that the Golan Heights and East
Jerusalem are also part of the "occupied territories," but in this case,
the advocate general said his opinion referred only to the West Bank and
Currently, for goods from the territories to receive customs breaks,
they must bear a certificate issued by the Palestinian Authority.
The disagreement with the EU over Israeli exports from the territories
has been going on for a long time. At one point, the EU threatened
sanctions against all Israeli exports if an agreement was not reached.
However, Israel refused to label or otherwise differentiate products
from the settlements.
Five years ago, Israel and the EU agreed that all exports would be
labeled with the place of manufacture, or the factory's zip code, and
the EU customs authorities would then decide whether to levy customs.
Israeli exports to the EU totalled $17.8 million in 2008, of which only
a tiny fraction were from the territories. However, Der Spiegel recently
reported that a third of Israeli exports to Europe are made in part or
in full in the territories.