A case in a French court, challenging the implementation of EU rules on the labelling of foodstuffs originating from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, was referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union in June 2018.
The West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as Gaza and the Golan Heights, are all territories which have been occupied by Israel since 1967. International law is clear that Israeli settlements in occupied territory are illegal, and Ireland and the EU have made their views on settlements known on multiple occasions. Most relevantly to this case, under international law they are not part of the State of Israel.
Clear and non-misleading indication of origin for certain goods is an essential part of the EU's consumer policy. In the specific case of the occupied Palestinian territory, an Interpretative Notice on Indications of Origin was published by the European Commission on 12 November 2015. This provides guidance to importers and retailers on how EU rules on place of origin labelling should be applied in this case.
In relation to the case referred to the Court of Justice in June 2018, Ireland, as an interested Member State, lodged observations. The court’s judgment, issued on 12 November 2019, found that foodstuffs originating in territories occupied by the State of Israel, must bear the indication of their territory of origin, and when these products originate from an Israeli settlement, this must also be made clear on the label.
The Court of Justice’s ruling is an interpretation of France’s implementation of the Commission’s Notice and associated EU Regulations. It essentially does not change the situation. However, my Department is currently examining the judgment and reflecting on whether there are implications for Ireland. We will consult, if required, with other Departments in the coming period.
The Commission Interpretative Notice on Indications of Origin of 12 November 2015 is already on my Department’s website. It was circulated to other Departments at the time of publication to bring the guidelines to the attention of relevant bodies dealing with labelling or consumer protection. Accuracy of product labelling will continue to be a consumer protection issue, monitored and enforced as heretofore.