Nazareth- The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) calls on the Members of the European Parliament NOT to give their vote to an important trade agreement with Israel, sending a clear message to Israel that the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel won’t stand for ‘business as usual’ given the deterioration of the situation on the ground.
The European Parliament’s plenary session is due to vote on the EU-Israel ACAA protocol on 23 October 2012. At this occasion, the HRA urges MEPs to suspend their vote on the ACAA protocol so as not to create a legal precedent that could further jeopardise a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. These concerns have been echoed in the outcome of the vote in the international trade committee of the European Parliament on September 18th, which gave a consent vote to ACAA with a surprisingly tight margin for a technical agreement (15 in favour, 13 against and two abstentions) and could now be overturned in the Plenary session of the European Parliament.
ACAA, or the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products, is a protocol attached to the EU-Israel Association Agreement. In practice, this agreement allows industrial products to enter the respective markets of the parties without additional testing and conformity assessment procedures. In practice, thismeans that both European and Israeli consumers will have quicker access to more and cheaper pharmaceuticals goods. Regardless of potential benefits, this vote represents an opportunity to show that Israel’s human rights violations will not stand.
Our organisation argues that:
· The protocol implies the recognition of an Israeli authority that is competent over the settlements in the OPT and annexed territories;
· This protocol shows the lack of coherence in EU Foreign Policy;
· The EU should stick to the principle of ‘positive conditionality’ and ask Israelto commit to its human rights obligations;
· While not technically an ‘upgrade’, ACAA is still an important strengthening of bilateral relations between the EU and Israel;
· The agreement does not account for the fact that the Israeli pharmaceutical industry is deeply involved in the occupation, with devastating consequences for Palestinians in need of basic healthcare.
HRA General Director, Mohammad Zeidan, sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament asking them to withhold their consent to this agreement until there is tangible progress in Israel’s respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). ACAA is not just a technical agreement – it has implications for the Parliament’s credibility in ensuring that the EU upholds human rights in its foreign policy, in the Middle East region in particular.
At present, there is only one annex to the ACAA protocol, which covers pharmaceutical products,; however, in the future other annexes could be added like cosmetics and toys.
Negotiation on the ACAA Protocol between the EU and Israel started in early 2009. The ACAA Protocol was signed in May 2010 and has since been waiting for the assent vote of the European Parliament. The final vote on October 24 maybe be remembered as a watershed moment in the advancement of EU/Israel relations, lets not let the EU’s human rights obligations be forgotten.
The HRA letter to the MEPs was a part of a larger campaign organized by the Euromed Human Rights Network, which is a coalition of human rights organization based in Europe and the Middle East.