The European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered its judgement on November 12 in the matter of Psagot Winery v. The French Minister of Economy, affirming that goods produced in Israeli settlements would require specific labeling to indicate their origins. This ruling follows a nearly four-year battle over the issue of labeling settlement products.
This judgement dealt with the Interpretative Notice of the European Commission published by the European Commission in 2015 on EU regulation 1169/2011, noting that ‘Product from Israel’ should not be used for products from the Golan Heights or the West Bank (including east Jerusalem). For products from West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from Golan Heights’ or ‘product from West Bank’ would not be acceptable. In such cases, the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added.".
In 2016, the Minister of the Economy of France published a notice that labeling of said products must be altered in accordance with the abovementioned regulation. Psagot Winery filed an administrative case against the Minister of Economy on this basis. Since the matter dealt with EU law and regulation, France’s Supreme Court for Administrative Justice (French Conseil D’Etat), referred the matter to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling, asking the European court to assess whether E.U. law requires such labeling.
The Court Decision:
The court responded to the first issue referred to it by the French Supreme Court: Does EU law and in particular Regulation No 1169/2011, where indication of the origin of a product falling within the scope of that regulation is mandatory, require, for a product from a territory occupied by the State of Israel since 1967, an indication of that territory and an indication that the product comes from an Israeli settlement if that is the case?
The ECJ responded affirmatively, that EU law required that products manufactured and exported from Israeli Settlements in the Golan Heights, West Bank, East Jerusalem not carry the label "Made in Israel" and must be labeled with the addition of "Israeli Settlement" in order not to mislead consumers as to the place of provenance of the foodstuff.
“Foodstuffs originating in a territory occupied by the State of Israel must bear not only the indication of that territory but also, where those foodstuffs come from a locality or a group of localities constituting an Israeli settlement within that territory, the indication of that provenance.”
This follows EU laws and regulations that do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over these areas and that regard the Israeli settlements in the territories as illegal.
What could happen now?
- The French Supreme Court will be ruling on the specific case of will now rule on the case of Psagot Winery in line with the ruling of the ECJ. However, the case may be challenged on other grounds in court, such as local anti-discrimination grounds.
- The E.U. Parliament and Council could amend the regulation at issue and annul its application with respect to West Bank and Golan Heights products.
Why is this worrying?
The approval by the ECJ of the application of the EU regulations sets the ground for delegitimization of Israel and increased economic pressure on the State.
The ruling can set a precedent for other EU countries to follow the labeling regulations in light of the court’s decision. Many countries have not been implementing the regulations with regards to settlement labeling but may find themselves obliged by the court ruling to do so. Moreover, cases can be brought forward in other countries requiring stricter implementation for the labeling requirements following the ECJ ruling.
The court ruling gives encouragement to the general Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and may create a push for further labeling requirements across Europe and elsewhere.