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Procedure : 2009/0155(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0289/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0289/2012

Debates :

PV 23/10/2012 - 11
CRE 23/10/2012 - 11

Votes :

PV 23/10/2012 - 13.22
CRE 23/10/2012 - 13.22
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0385

Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 23 October 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11. Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the EC and Israel on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (CAA) (debate)
Video of the speeches
Minutes
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  President. – The next item is the report (A7-0289/2012) by Vital Moreira, on behalf of the Committee on International Trade, on the draft Council decision on the conclusion of a Protocol to the Euro Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the State of Israel, of the other part, on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (CAA) [12428/2012 – C7-0205/2012 – 2009/0155(NLE)]

 
  
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  Vital Moreira, rapporteur.(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am the rapporteur for this procedure, but this is not my report, given that I voted against it in the Committee on International Trade, which I do in fact chair. Having made this statement, I will summarise the various issues involved with as much objectivity as possible. The fundamental issue is whether we should approve the trade agreement with Israel on the mutual recognition of the conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products, which this Protocol already applies to pharmaceutical products, but which will be extended to all other products subject to conformity assessment and acceptance.

The Committee on International Trade was divided between two irreconcilable camps. The first camp opposed approval on the basis of ensuring consistency in the Union’s external policies with regard to Israel. This camp argued that it does not make sense, on the one hand, to strongly condemn Israel’s policy in the Occupied Territories but, on the other hand, to reinforce trade relations with Israel. It does not make sense to witness the contempt with which Israel defies our condemnation and then give Israel this valuable prize in terms of trade policy. It does not make sense for us to be shocked at the deliberate policy of destroying the conditions for a solution for the two States, as advocated by the Union, and then rehabilitate and encourage Israel in relation to these very same policies.

The second camp in the Committee on International Trade argued that, first, the Protocol is limited to confirming the trade mechanism already set out in the Association Agreement and, second, we should not confuse external policy with foreign trade policy. It was this camp that won in committee, contrary to my draft report, albeit with a small majority. It is now for the plenary and each of us individually to finally decide this fundamental issue.

In addition to this fundamental issue, there are two further issues. The first concerns the territorial scope of application of the Protocol. Unfortunately, the Protocol was not carefully negotiated and is unclear as to whether or not it excludes products originating from the Occupied Territories. This point must be clarified, otherwise we risk crossing one of the European Union’s red lines, namely non-recognition of the Israeli integration of these territories. The proposal to ask the Council for an interpretative statement on this issue is therefore justified. Only the Council can make this statement, as it is the Council, on behalf of the Union, which will be bound by this Protocol. Our role here is simply to consent to the Council decision. As a result, we can only ask the Council to do this. Yet without the Council’s clear commitment, here and now, to make this interpretative statement (and, in this respect, I do not see the Council here), our vote on this issue is irrelevant and ineffective. However, we must vote on this interpretative statement, or this request for an interpretative vote.

The third issue is connected with Article 3 of the draft decision of the Council, which concluded the Protocol on behalf of the Union. In that article, the Council authorises the Commission to amend the Protocol, including with regard to beneficiary products, without any subsequent approval by Parliament or the Council. This represents authorisation to amend an international protocol, on which we are now voting. However, the Council still wants to keep control over these amendments through an ad hoc committee, whereas Parliament will from now on have no role in the amendment of the Protocol on which we are now voting.

This poses three problems. First, does it make sense to authorise the Commission to amend a trade agreement so substantively? Second, what is the legal basis in the Treaty for the ad hoc committee proposed by the Council to monitor the Commission in this respect. Three, and with this I will conclude, is it acceptable for Parliament to be ignored in the delegation of power, in the control of the exercise of delegated power, and in the assessment of amendments to the Protocol that the Commission will negotiate with Israel? The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament has already said that it will ask for this procedure to be referred back to committee so that this issue can be considered. This is an important issue and, in my opinion, we cannot allow a precedent to be created in this respect.

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I would like to thank you and my colleagues for the opportunity to say a few words regarding the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance, the so-called ACAA between Israel and the EU, which is a fiercely debated issue.

Let me start by recalling what an ACAA is about. Its objective is to eliminate barriers to trade, by allowing products covered by the agreement to enter the markets of the parties without additional conformity assessment procedures. So we are basically talking about mutual recognition of conformity assessment and inspection, results which will reduce costs and time for economic operators.

ACAA is a Protocol to the EU-Israel Association Agreement and its scope of application is therefore the same as set out in Article 83 of the Association Agreement. As follows from the international obligations of the EU and as confirmed by the European Court of Justice in the Brita case, the EU does not recognise Israeli jurisdiction over the territories placed under Israeli administration after 1967. Rest assured that the Commission will observe this position in the implementation of the ACAA.

As you know, when the agreement enters into force, the Commission will have to acknowledge under Article 9 of the ACAA the responsible Israeli authority which will have to deliver conformity certificates. This acknowledgement will not entail any recognition of Israeli jurisdiction over territories placed under Israeli administration after 1967. You can also rest assured that, upon receipt of the Israeli notification of its Responsible Authority, the Commission will expressly state that acknowledgement is granted only on the basis that the territory covered by the Responsible Authority does not include the territories brought under Israeli administration in 1967.

In the light of this, Palestinian products cannot be discriminated against in the certification process in Israel because Israel will have to apply the EU acquis. Like any EU Member State, Israel must carry out inspections irrespective of the origin of the product, when a request is received. If there were to be cases of discrimination, the Palestinian manufacturer could lodge a complaint with the Israeli judicial authorities. Of course, the Commission could also use existing means under the Association Agreement to ensure that Israel implements the ACAA.

There could be a link between the certification process and the origin of the products in a situation where the Israeli Responsible Authority goes into the Occupied Territories in order to certify products made in the settlements. And we need to be aware of this.

I would also like to react to recent concerns about Parliament’s role in the context of procedures to amend this ACAA, including by adding annexes for other industrial products in future. The matter seems to be in line with the Lisbon Treaty. Moreover, the Commission will also abide by its obligations under the Framework Agreement to keep Parliament fully informed before approving modifications to an agreement under Article 218(7) of the Lisbon Treaty.

Lastly, we have other ACAAs in the pipeline with other countries where we would expect to face similar, though not identical, concerns. Our experience with the present consent procedure will serve as a useful guide.

 
  
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  Véronique De Keyser, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. (FR) Madam President, in our opinion, the proposed Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) has three major problems today.

The first is institutional. It is still shocking to learn that once the European Parliament’s agreement has been secured for the pharmaceutical sector, Parliament will have no further say in the matter for other sectors that Israel may include. For us, that is like buying a pig in a poke or, if you prefer, taking the European Parliament for a fool.

We will continue to fight for Parliament’s prerogatives to be respected. That is why, to clarify this point, my group has asked for this report to be referred back to committee in order to obtain some guarantees on the matter.

The second problem is legal and relates to the competence of the Israeli Responsible Authority with regard to products from the settlements, settlements that are illegal under international law. We have presented an interpretative statement that covers this aspect. You just raised this point, Mr De Gucht, but that declaration is just wishful thinking unless it is endorsed by the three institutions, and the Council in particular, and to date we have had no guarantees on that point.

The third problem is political and it is not the least of them. This agreement, which was part of the proposal to upgrade relations with Israel that was frozen in 2008, even though legally it could be concluded in the current framework, is a de facto upgrade. However, nothing has changed on the ground since 2008; if anything, things are worse. The blockade of the Gaza Strip continues, the settlements have expanded dramatically, in violation of international law, and the peace talks have come to a halt. The Lieberman Plan presented in August to the EU High Representative, Baroness Ashton, which proposes Palestinian districts around the Israeli cities, shatters any hope of a two-state solution. Indeed, just a few days ago, Benjamin Netanyahu tried to push through part of the Levy Report, which would legalise the settlements that the Israeli themselves previously deemed illegal.

That is not our position. Nor is it the position under international law. Do we therefore want to reward this position of Mr Netanyahu’s Government with the ACAA? That is unacceptable, at least for socialists and democrats; unacceptable in relation to our values and unacceptable in relation to the Treaty of Lisbon and the new Neighbourhood Policy, which is based on ‘more for more’. On that basis, if the report is not referred back to committee today, our Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament will vote against the ACAA.

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Madam President, the PPE Group is in favour of the ACAA and we look forward to the vote in order to give our consent to this important agreement between the EU and Israel.

After a deliberation of more than two and a half years, we are finally having this discussion in the plenary session on ACAA. I am happy that there has been enough common sense among our colleagues in the INTA Committee to vote in favour of this agreement, which is good for both the EU and Israel and is part of the EU Association Agreement. Israel is the first country in the Mediterranean Region to achieve the basic conditions that enable it to reach an ACAA with the EU. The ACAA, together with the additional protocol on pharmaceutical products, aims at facilitating market access by eliminating technical barriers to trade in industrial products.

In order to make the framework of the ACAA operational, it has to be implemented into specific sectors, practices and regulations. As we know, once adopted, the ACAA would cover mutual recognition of regulatory and verification procedures for pharmaceutical products in the EU and Israel. Such mutual recognition would certainly benefit European consumers and they would get quicker access to Israeli pharmaceutical products, as there would no longer be a need for a second testing in the EU – something that normally takes from one to three years.

Colleagues, it should be mentioned that it took Israel more than six years to adopt the necessary standards in the field of good manufacturing practice for pharmaceutical products. In other words, in order to conclude this agreement, and the additional protocol, Israel had to substantially approximate its regulatory framework on pharmaceutical products to that of the EU. So we are spreading our acquis communautaire to Israel, with a spill-over effect to other areas as well. In other words, it is in the EU’s interest to get Israel’s legislation and standards closer to the EU’s. I would, therefore, like to encourage my colleagues to give our consent to the ACAA later today.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Vital Moreira (S&D), blue-card question. – Madam President, my question is a very simple one. Article 2 of the Association Agreement to which this protocol is an additional arrangement says ‘relations between the two parties are based on respect for human rights’. Does the House believe that Israel is respecting the human rights of Palestinians – stealing their lands, expelling them from their homes, preventing them from free circulation in their own land? Is this respect for human rights? Does the House feel that the conditions for an Association Agreement are being fulfilled by Israel?

 
  
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  Laima Liucija Andrikienė (PPE), Blue-card answer. – Human rights are universal and we should not have double standards – one for Palestinians and another for Israelis. Human rights are very important, but this agreement we are discussing today is purely technical in nature. It is part of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Once we have concluded the Association Agreement, we should take the necessary steps in order to implement it. Of course it is always our duty also to address human rights, whether we are speaking about Israel or Palestine.

 
  
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  Bernd Lange, on behalf of the S&D Group. (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, this agreement must indeed be scrutinised very carefully for it has major political implications. In Israel, there is a debate under way as to whether, with this agreement, we mean to support Israel or show it the red card. In my view, this is an unproductive debate. It is not for us to adopt a position on the State of Israel and its people. Our task is simply to adopt a position towards the present Israeli Government.

When we conclude agreements with other countries, it is only right and proper that we apply the standards and values that we uphold in the European Union to our partner countries as well. With that in mind, it must be said that the present Israeli Government, in its conduct towards the Occupied Territories and the people who live there, is not acting in accordance with the values to which the European Union is committed. That is why we cannot enter into an agreement with that government without giving the matter careful thought.

Secondly, there is still a lack of clarity on a number of points. The previous speaker said that there was a consensus here. No, there is no consensus. The vote in committee was 13 to 15. In my view, the origin of generic drugs is an issue that must be clarified in future in order to ensure that they do not come from the Occupied Territories or from illegal settlements. We must also clarify how the Commission will in future exercise the right to extend this agreement to other products as well. That is why we need more time for a thorough-going discussion and why I fully support Véronique De Keyser’s demand for this matter to referred back to committee for intensive deliberation.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary (PPE), Blue-card question. – (DE) Madam President, several previous speakers, Mr Lange, have talked about the human rights situation. This Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) was referred to Parliament two years ago, together with an agreement on agricultural products with the Palestinian territories. The first of these agreements is being discussed here today; the second was adopted by this House with no problems at all. Let me ask you this: why is it different when the Israelis do what we regard as the wrong thing? What about the Palestinians? Do you think that Hamas’ practice of executing people or torturing them in cases of doubt is compatible with our human rights standards? Why did we adopt the first agreement with no problems at all eighteen months ago, and why are you now coming up with all kinds of arguments which, strangely, were apparently irrelevant then? Have you added to your knowledge or have I misunderstood?

 
  
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  Bernd Lange (S&D), Blue-card answer. – (DE) Our values apply on an universal basis, of course. We make no distinction at all. Why you adopted the position you did two years ago is not something that I can explain. From our perspective, the situation is quite clear: we are not pulling arguments out of thin air. We want to ensure that the agreement, which will, after all, serve as a model for future agreements as well, is sound. That is the reason why we are asking for more time to discuss it, Mr Caspary.

 
  
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  Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, human rights are essential for this Parliament and for the EU. This is the essence of our values and is also reflected in our trade policies, where we find conditionalities for respect for human rights in relation to all countries across the world with which we have trade relations. This also applies to Israel in the context of the Association Agreement.

The vote today concerns the Protocol that stems from that Association Agreement and deals with the pharmaceuticals sector, and with technical requirements and mutual recognition of quality standards. As such, it should be seen as a technical dossier. But, of course, MEPs on both the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on International Trade believed it was important to seek legal guarantees, because we do not want to, directly or indirectly, allow the territorial jurisdiction of Israeli authorities over the Occupied Territories. Nor do we want to allow products from the settlements to enter the EU market. We sought legal certainty and we believe that we have acquired the requisite assurances now.

We also, as Members of this Parliament, attach a statement where we reiterate how important we think it is that Israel respect human rights. This is not only important for us and for the Palestinian people but, most of all, for Israel’s future. The Israeli Government is actually on a path to self-isolation which is not working, making bold statements that the EU should solve its own problems before addressing others.

In fact, it is important that the EU show its strength and its muscle, and this Protocol does not provide a very effective tool for that purpose. If we want to address human rights violations in Israel – and I think we should – we should do so on the basis of the conditionalities provided for under the Association Agreement.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Paul Murphy (GUE/NGL), Blue-card question. – I would just like to ask the speaker this: the words of support for the Palestinian people and the words of opposition to the oppression of the Palestinians, what good are they if we are just going to allow this agreement to go through? How can it seriously be described as a technical agreement? It was a Commission report in 2009 that said that the ACAA’s entry into force would mark the first step in Israel’s integration into the EU single market. The single market is not a technical issue, it is a political issue. If Israel’s entry into the single market is a political endorsement of its policies, how can anyone who opposes the oppression of the Palestinians allow it to happen?

 
  
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  Marietje Schaake (ALDE), Blue-card answer. – Mr Murphy, as I mentioned, human rights are essential for the European Union. I work on human rights on a daily basis and it is a key driver for the work that I do here at Parliament.

To prepare myself for the vote today and for the text and the work on this Protocol, I have spoken to a number of organisations, representing mostly those who care about the human rights of Palestinians. We have to ask ourselves whether rejecting this Protocol would actually improve the lives of Palestinians – and I do not think it will. So I think we must actually use the tools that we have which are stronger – the conditionality agreements that we find in the Association Agreement with Israel – and take this up onto the level that gives us the basis to address matters.

The credibility of this Parliament is important in order for it to be a broker of real solutions in the Middle East peace conflict, and bending the procedures in utterly creative ways actually harms the credibility of this Parliament and will not do us any good when seeking solutions that work for the Palestinian people.

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Yannick Jadot, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, we sometimes see astonishing things in this Parliament. When we talk about human rights in China, we hear people say: ‘we need to do business with China because that will encourage respect for human rights in China’. When revolutions happen in Arab countries, we hear people say: ‘we must organise free trade agreements with the Arab countries because that is how we can support the emergence of democracy in the Arab countries’. All of a sudden, trade becomes a purely technical, and highly complicated, issue that has no connection with politics. We know, unfortunately, that this agreement does not guarantee the origin of the products that will enter the European market: firstly, pharmaceutical products and then other industrial products.

Not even a week ago, Mr Netanyahu’s Government announced the legalisation of unauthorised settlements and the expansion of the settlements in the West Bank, and all this with an eye on the election on 22 January.

At a time when Europe is going to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of its past and, above all, the history it must build, particularly with its neighbours, it would be an aberration for Europe to send out a message that it is upgrading its political relations with Israel, rewarding the Netanyahu Administration for all of its politics, which are constantly criticised by the EU bodies, especially Baroness Ashton. What we are doing here is sending a message to Israel: ‘you must vote for Mr Netanyahu so that he continues his settlement policy, his policy of infringing human rights’.

We are in favour of referring the report back to committee for all of the reasons that Mr Moreira gave. It is crucial that Europe does not get involved in the Israeli elections and does not send a message of support to Mr Netanyahu.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR), Blue-card question. – Madam President, Mr Jadot very clearly pointed out the total inconsistency within this House. The Left is opposed to certain human rights motions condemning China, and was very supportive of the third-generation agreement with Pakistan, where there are clearly human rights abuses against Christians, Hindu minorities and women. But when it comes to Israel-bashing they are the first to try and conflate two completely separate issues: the policies of the Government of Israel and an issue to do with trade and the quality and safety of pharmaceutical goods to be consumed by European Union citizens.

Do they not agree that this is completely ridiculous, and are they aware that, as far as I know– and have had confirmed – there are no manufacturers of medicine in the Occupied Territories or the settlements? They come entirely from within Israel itself. So there is no question as to provenance, even if that were relevant to this issue. Can they not agree that there are no medicines coming out of the Occupied Territories?

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Yannick Jadot (Verts/ALE), Blue-card answer. – (FR) As you know, it is extremely difficult to trace the origin of all of the products that come from Israel. Therefore, even if there is no definitive proof today that pharmaceutical products are produced in certain territories, that does not mean that that will be the case in the future, especially when there is a desire to expand the settlements and there may be other industrial products that would not offer a guarantee that they are not manufactured in the Occupied Territories.

Sir, do not hesitate to look at the voting list of the Greens for every vote we hold on trade agreements: you will see that we are consistent with regard to respect for human rights, the environment and social rights.

 
  
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  Jan Zahradil, on behalf of the ECR Group. – There is unfortunately too much politicking sometimes over trade issues, not only in the INTA Committee, but in this House as well. So let me just repeat once again that those who say that this is mostly a technical framework agreement are right; it is. It aims purely at facilitating the elimination of technical barriers to trade; also, it is something that should be judged on its trade merits alone. It is simply a protocol to an existing agreement between the EU and Israel. I do not need to stress how beneficial it could be to the EU; it would significantly reduce the cost of pharmaceutical products imported into the EU, for instance.

Secondly, the EU has already concluded and agreed a similar agreement with the Palestinian Authority. It has been a number of months since it was concluded and agreed, and it would be quite hypocritical of the EU side to reject the agreement.

Thirdly, the Commission has also offered concrete assurances that this agreement is in conformity with legal commitments. I have to add that it was made clear that no products originating from the so-called Occupied Territories will be accepted. That is prohibited under Community law, so nothing that comes from places that have been under Israeli administration since 1967 is entitled to benefit from preferential tariffs.

The time has come to move forward. Let me stress, last but not least, that Israel is a normal country; it is a democratic country, a European-like country. We should treat it as such, and not like some kind of feudal dictatorship.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Vital Moreira (S&D), Blue-card question. – Madam President, I appreciate the experience of Mr Zahradil in this Parliament and his serene and usually very balanced participation. I would like to put to him an objective question regarding the qualification of this agreement as a technical one.

This is a not a technical agreement because, while it is about the removal of technical barriers to trade, the removal of some technical barriers is quite political. It will mean, for example, the removal of assessment controls and mutual recognition, which constitutes a high level of partnership and means that Israeli exports will be fully integrated into the internal market.

Let me ask Mr Zahradil whether he does not agree that the benefits that Israeli exporters will reap from this agreement will give them a significant edge over other exporters to the Union. Is that not a privilege?

 
  
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  Jan Zahradil (ECR), Blue-card answer. – Thank you Mr Moreira, I highly value your chairmanship of the INTA Committee, and I can stress again that I consider your chairmanship also to be very well-balanced and I like it. At the same time, I have to admit that we simply do not agree as to our assessment of certain particular issues, and this is precisely the one on which we simply cannot find common ground. I do not consider your assessment to be correct. I really do think that it is mostly a technical matter and I do not see any simple and serious reason why we should block it further.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE), Blue-card question. – – (FR) Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask you if you are aware of the reports of the European Union’s ambassadors and delegations in Jerusalem, which have stated clearly in recent years that we cannot guarantee the traceability of products from Israel and thus identify and distinguish products from the settlements.

I would like to know if you are aware of these reports because I am astonished that you say that products from the settlements are not involved. In addition, have you also heard that in many countries, and mine in particular, consumers regularly spot products from the settlements on our markets?

 
  
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  Jan Zahradil (ECR), Blue-card answer. – I can only tell you that I have no knowledge of any reports you are referring to, nor about the sources they might come from.

 
  
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  Paul Murphy, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – Madam President, two days ago the Israeli army engaged in yet another act of piracy in international waters. This time by attacking a ship, the MV Estelle, carrying thirty activists from Europe, including many European MPs, hijacking their ship, tasering and beating up to 14 of these activists, and now 14 people are still in prison.

Why did this wonderful European-like, model democracy country that Mr Zahradil would have us believe is the State of Israel, do this? It was because these people were simply trying to bring humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, thereby breaking the illegal blockade imposed on the almost two million people in Gaza, who are forced to live in what is in effect an open air prison camp. I have been on a similar ship; I have been attacked by the Israeli military; I have spent a week in Israeli prisons in inhumane conditions, and I have been to Gaza and seen the reality of the conditions that are imposed on the people of Gaza by the choices made by the right-wing Israeli Government. I have seen the hospitals that do not have even basic medicines. I have seen the mass poverty – up to 80 % of people rely on humanitarian aid to survive – and now the European Commission and the right wing in this Parliament would like us to pat Israel on the back, to congratulate it, to welcome it into the single market.

Let us drop the pretence that this is a technical agreement: that is absolute rubbish. It is completely disingenuous to suggest that. Entry into the single market is not a technical question. Let us also drop the pretence that it is anything to do with access to pharmaceutical products: what about the right of the people in Gaza to access pharmaceutical products? If this Parliament agrees to give consent, it will be a continuation of a two-faced EU policy which on the one hand speaks about the rights of the Palestinians, gives out about the oppression of the Palestinians and verbally gives support to a Palestinian State, but in reality backs up the actions of Israel and the oppression of the Israeli State against the Palestinians.

Regardless of what declaration is passed – and we are in favour of the strongest possible declaration excluding Israeli settlements – we will be voting against consent. Consent will be interpreted by the Netanyahu Government as an endorsement of the oppression of the Palestinians. It will embolden them to continue with forcing Palestinians out of East Jerusalem and demolishing their homes, and to continue with the inhumane blockade of Gaza. There should be no consent while this oppression persists.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Marek Siwiec (S&D), Blue-card question. – I would like to ask Mr Murphy whether he knows about the Israeli people who are being attacked by Qassam rockets from the Gaza territory? These people, including innocent children who are hiding in bunkers in the daytime, are under permanent attack from this territory.

The second question is: what kind of aid was delivered by this ship you have described in recent days. How much and what kind of products were going to be delivered to the Gaza strip? According to my knowledge, there was nothing.

 
  
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  Paul Murphy (GUE/NGL), Blue-card answer. – Madam President, unfortunately the speaker is absolutely correct: no aid got through to Gaza because the Israeli army intercepted and hijacked the ship and took it to Ashdod, as they did with our ship. My understanding is that there were medicines on board that ship, which hopefully will be delivered to the people in Gaza.

Am I aware of the Qassam rockets? Yes.

Am I aware of the fact that ordinary Israeli working people, small farmers and others suffer from attacks from a small section of right-wing Islamic fundamentalists? Yes, I am on record as repeatedly opposing and condemning those attacks, but I do not think such attacks justify putting two million people in an open-air prison. That is a war crime. An entire people are being punishing because of the actions of a section of right-wing Islamic fundamentalists.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR), blue-card question. – Mr Murphy, would you agree that Israel is a democracy with free and fair elections and people can throw their government out, whereas Gaza is actually a dictatorship led by an EU-banned terrorist organisation called Hamas, in which people are hanged from lamp posts?

Would you also agree that lifting the Gaza blockade, no matter how desirable you might think that is, has got absolutely nothing to do with the issue before us today, which is about supplying cheap, safe and effective medicines to sick Europeans?

 
  
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  Paul Murphy (GUE/NGL), blue-card answer. – Again Mr Tannock seems to have confused the issue, as the right wing in this Parliament persists in doing. The issue before us today is the entry of Israel, de facto, into the single market. It is an endorsement of the oppression that the Israeli state metes out to the Palestinian people. That is the issue, and that is why we should refuse to agree to it. Israel is not a properly-functioning democracy – you ask the Arabs who live within Israel if it is a properly-functioning democracy.

I fundamentally disagree with Hamas. Hamas won an election, and then US imperialism and EU imperialism were not happy with that result and consented to the imposition of a horrific blockade from which the people in Gaza suffer.

 
  
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  Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the EFD Group. (NL) For too long, far too long, I have looked forward to the debate in plenary and approval of the trade agreement on pharmaceutical products between the EU and Israel. After all, it is obvious that there is an advantage to both parties, with the European citizen/patient the big winner. You know, that is important in these difficult economic times.

Then why is there such an extreme delay in debating this important European trade issue, when the Council and the Commission have long spoken out very much in favour of it? The answer can be shockingly brief. The opponents in this Parliament, including the Chair of the Committee on International Trade, who is also the rapporteur, are responsible. They seem to have difficulty with a fundamental principle of democracy. If you are a serious parliament where there are differences of opinion, you simply vote on them and then faithfully accept the result.

I sincerely hope that the plenary vote this evening will have the same result as the vote in the Committee on International Trade. As Chair of this Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Israel, my goal is fair, balanced and good relations between the EU and the Jewish state.

 
  
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  Diane Dodds (NI). – Madam President, it is deeply regrettable that the implementation of the Protocol establishing the EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity, Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products has been stalled in recent months through, quite frankly, the careless politicisation of the issue through Members of this House.

I, for one, am keen to stress the overwhelming potential of this Agreement for EU citizens – I speak on behalf of many of my constituents in Northern Ireland who have been in contact with me on the matter. There has been much speculation as to the potential impact of the ACAA on the human rights of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. However, as indicated by the Commissioner, this has been dealt with in the conditionalities in the Association Agreement between the EU and Israel.

Focus must therefore turn to the rights of EU citizens to effective and reasonably priced health care. By allowing mutual recognition of goods certificates, the EU-Israel ACAA would erode several barriers to exporting pharmaceuticals from Israel to the EU and vice versa, allowing advanced medical supplies to reach those who need them most, in a reduced timeframe. In the light of the global economic climate, eliminating the need for extensive product testing would also positively impact the operating costs of EU pharmaceutical manufacturers, leading to savings in national health care services, including the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. As a result, the Agreement represents an avenue through which I can remain true to two of my personal priorities as an elected representative for Northern Ireland – consolidating public health and safeguarding jobs – and for these very human reasons I am in support of it.

 
  
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  Daniel Caspary (PPE). (DE) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, two years ago, two agreements arrived at this Parliament at the same time. One was the agreement which we are discussing today, and the other was the agreement on agricultural products with the Palestinian territories. This agreement with Israel has thrown up one or two problems. One issue we had to deal with was the exclusion of products from the disputed territories. The Commission worked very hard to resolve that. Then there was Article 3, which we wanted to be amended. At our rapporteur’s request, the Council responded to all points of criticism. Now, suddenly, the same issue is being resurrected for reasons which I fail to understand. There are now calls for a statement from the Council. That is something that I fully endorse in terms of policy content. What manner of policy-making is this, however, when we as the House briefly outline our thoughts about a document, the groups then go away and work on the text, and then we demand a statement from the Council without ever engaging with it on this issue? It is a style of policy-making that we cannot support, and that is why we are voting against this amendment.

My next point is this. We would also question whether this amendment is admissible under Rule 81. I would be most grateful to the President if she could clarify that particular point.

What annoys me – and has been evident several times today – is this: as the European Union, we are one of a very small number of recognised mediators in this conflict. In that particular context, it is important to show that we are not giving preferential treatment to, or discriminating against, one side or the other. If we want to continue to be recognised as a mediator, we must deal fairly with both sides. Eighteen months ago, we allowed the agreement with the Palestinian territories to pass through this House in its entirety, despite Hamas and despite the use of the death penalty. With this agreement today, however, very different standards are being applied. I just wish that we could all abide by our principles.

Unfortunately, I have the impression that for some Members of this House, the only principle worth upholding is to have no principles at all. They prefer to twist and turn the issues as it suits them. That is not a credible way to do politics. I would ask you, therefore, to rethink your position and to vote for this agreement this evening, just as you voted for the agreement with the Palestinian territories, for the substance of the agreement is the same.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D). – Madam President, Daniel Caspary knows full well that he is not equating like with like. Firstly, the Palestinians are the occupied, not the occupiers. Secondly, the agricultural upgrade was relatively minor compared to the millions, if not billions, that could eventually be available to Israeli companies if we approve this so-called ‘technical upgrade’.

It is not a ‘technical upgrade’. It will immediately benefit Israeli pharmaceutical companies. It is also not something being done in the interest of the European Union, Mrs Dodds, because there is no evidence that it would save the UK National Health Service a single penny. This is not the time, in my opinion, to be upgrading our relationship with Israel.

If we believe in policy cohesion, we have to have some interaction between our trade policy, our human rights policy and our foreign policy. Mr Murphy has rightly said that Israel is engaged in the collective punishment of Gaza, against all human rights norms, against all international norms. There is no question about it; even the Israelis do not deny it. For the misdemeanours of a few, the whole of Gaza is being punished.

We also know, of course, that Israel has continued to expand its settlements in the Middle East. These settlements are illegal under international law and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible. The EU has repeatedly urged the Israeli Government to immediately end all settlement activities on the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, in line with its obligations under the roadmap. These are not my words, but those of the High Representative of the European Union. So how can the High Representative put out a press release like that, and the Trade Commissioner then come along and say we should approve the rewarding of Israel for its policies?

There is no cohesion there, there is no logic to such a position in the European Union. Let me make it clear, and other speakers have made it clear: this is not about being anti-Israel. This is about being anti the current Israeli Government and anti the current Israeli Government’s policies. That is why initially I hoped to postpone a decision, so that if we do get a better Israeli Government, if we do get better Israeli policies, we could pass this protocol and we could enhance our relationship with Israel.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: LÁSZLÓ SURJÁN
Vice-President

 
  
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  Niccolò Rinaldi (ALDE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, in itself the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) is an excellent piece of work. It focuses on simplification, which is certainly desirable, but, to be frank, it would be naive to consider it a technical agreement. There is a long list of requests to the Israeli authorities from the European Union, from the High Representative, from our consulates in East Jerusalem, and from this Parliament on the settlements in the West Bank, on the continuing annexation of East Jerusalem, on the situation in Gaza and on the resumption of the peace process.

If we look at what the EU has obtained with these requests, we see neither real progress nor any serious concessions. I therefore consider this to be anything but a politically neutral measure. My delegation will vote against the ACAA and I am calling on the Commission, should the ACAA be approved, to exercise the highest possible degree of oversight, both in terms of traceability of products to the Occupied Territories, which is a problem that has nothing to do with the good faith of the Commission but rather with Israel, and extension of the agreement to other products without the involvement of the European Parliament.

 
  
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  Franziska Katharina Brantner (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, it is interesting that we are having this vote right after the Israeli Foreign Minister insulted our High Representative Baroness Ashton and the EU on Saturday, saying that the EU should focus on its own problems before making suggestions on how to resolve the crisis and the terrible situation with Palestine. This is clearly mocking the fact that the EU has taken a stance on this issue, and its involvement in the problem.

Commissioner, I think you have been trying to work on the question of the settlement products, but this is not the only thing that will help us out. The question we are dealing with in this Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) is a territorial question: who decides the boundaries of Israel and our trade relations – Israel according to its own law, or the EU according to international law?

In the Foreign Affairs Committee, we had asked for an interim report to clarify the legal questions. It is true, Mr Caspary, that the INTA chair at first decided not to go for that approach. We were quite sad to hear that, but it is interesting that we are now returning to that option. I consider that option is still the best one we can take – to clarify the legal questions and get an interim report that clarifies the outstanding issues. It is our task as parliamentarians to check the legal validity. This is not only a legal question but a political one also.

 
  
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  Cristiana Muscardini (ECR). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, Commissioner, for years this Parliament has been unable to overcome the ideological divide between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel positions, even when the debate is on purely technical issues.

The agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products provides for the extension of some of the benefits of the internal market to sectors that are already aligned but that require further standardisation in order to facilitate access to the market for industrial products and remove technical barriers. The agreement is of a commercial nature, because it allows easier European access to markets for pharmaceutical products and completion of the current policy of exchange between the EU and the Mediterranean countries.

Any debate on doubts regarding the origins of certain products exported should be commercially based, and we would not have such doubts had the Council approved the Regulation on indications of origin, which has instead been held up and in fact risks being shelved due to lack of political understanding and opposing interests. I call on the House to attempt to distinguish between the commercial and political assessments, to avoid sterile manipulation of these issues and to vote in favour of the proposal.

 
  
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  Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL).(EL) Mr President, today we are discussing the CAA Agreement, an agreement which, if approved, will give access, on European markets, to Israeli products which may be produced in Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. Such a development would be contrary to the laws of the European Union and international law, since it would force the European Union to recognise the extension of Israel’s sovereignty beyond the territories which it occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank settlement. It would also be contrary to the letter and spirit of the Europe-Israel association, which clearly envisages the dedication of the parties to respect for human rights, an obligation which Israel signally fails to fulfil in the long term. Israel proved this beyond doubt last Saturday, when, as Mr Murphy has said, it forcibly blocked the ship ‘Estelle’ on its course in international waters. It is proving it today with its continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The European Union has a duty to protect the human rights of a people who are under occupation, not to upgrade its relations with the occupying state. If the Council and the Commission do not respect this fundamental principle, let us do so ourselves, as the European Parliament, by voting against the protocol.

 
  
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  Matteo Salvini (EFD). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, the European Union has been awarded a Nobel Prize, no less! If only its citizens could hear some of the speeches made in this Parliament. Where is all this dialogue, this respect for human rights and tolerance?

I hope that the Commission presses ahead with its project that from a technical, economic and social point of view is useful for dialogue, useful to consumers, useful to enterprises and useful to workers in Israel, be they Jews, Christians or Muslims. Israel has provided us with a model to strive for and to compete with in terms of pharmaceutical research,

The sad thing is that we do not hear the same kind of indignation in this House from hypocritical left-wing parties when human rights are ignored in other parts of the world, in North Africa, in the Middle East. You can continue this Israel-Palestine derby all you like, but nobody will ever win it. I hope that this agreement will be a small contribution to peace in the area. I think that anyone who votes against the proposal should be ashamed of themselves.

 
  
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  Daniël van der Stoep (NI). (NL) Today we are debating an excellent protocol to the EU-Israel cooperation agreement. Israel is a high-tech country with a tremendous industrial structure, making the country the technological jewel of the Middle East. It is in fact the jewel of the Middle East in many ways.

With respect to certification and standardisation, it is completely on an equal footing with Western countries. For that reason alone, this protocol is of course hugely important for the EU. It will bring the vast potential of high-end products from Israel within the reach of European citizens. It is no mere chance that all of the computers in the world have some Israeli component in them and keeping in touch online would never have happened without the Israeli computer industry.

Another reason to strengthen trade relations with the Jewish state of Israel is, of course, its unrelenting struggle against terrorism from the Gaza Strip and terrorism in Israel itself. Qassam rockets are fired daily at Israeli citizens, women and children, and in Judea and Samaria Jewish residents are bombarded with fire bombs.

Mr President, I also wish to ask the Commission to recognise Jerusalem as the only and undivided capital of the Jewish state of Israel and to request that the Commission establish the EU Embassy there, where it belongs, in Jerusalem, which is and which must remain Israeli from east to west.

 
  
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  Ioannis Kasoulides (PPE). – Mr President, the ACAA agreement is not an upgrading of relations between the EU and Israel. It is based on the alignment of the legislative system of a country and its infrastructure with the EU. It is a process emanating from the Barcelona Process, extended now to Neighbourhood Policy countries, as stipulated in the association agreements; and it is a process that will apply to all partners as soon as the conformity assessment is completed.

The main purpose of the Union for the Mediterranean, formerly known as the Barcelona Process, is not to deal with, judge or attempt to resolve the partners’ political issues, such as the Middle East problem. Its purpose is to create, through the association agreements and cooperation between partners, an environment of trust, détente and understanding within which the parties to a dispute can try to resolve their differences themselves.

It would therefore be inappropriate to introduce political considerations in giving our assent once our question, addressed to the Commissioner and agreed by all, has been answered: this agreement applies only to Israel within its 1967 borders.

The EU, a soft power, should exercise its influence in the Middle East, avoiding what would appear as sanctions – which we know in advance will not work with Israel, which has enough backing from the United States – through which we ourselves create a void. Yes to more policy but not, as in this case, at the cost of achieving less.

 
  
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  Emer Costello (S&D). – Mr President, I want to thank the rapporteur for his considered, reasonable and very balanced approach to this report. I would support the view that he puts forward.

I believe that support for ACAA at this point in time runs contrary to all recent EU policy statements, including the conclusions by the European Council of 14 May, recent statements by the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Baroness Ashton, and, indeed, resolutions by this Parliament. All of these have been strong in their admonishment of Israeli policies in relation to settlements, the Gaza blockade and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in the region, the evictions of Palestinians from their lands, the demolition of homes and vital infrastructure, the restrictions on freedom of movement, the isolation of East Jerusalem and the lack of progress on the peace process.

The EU has expressed the view time and time again that the actions by the Israelis threaten to make the two-state solution impossible. If we are to achieve a lasting solution, there must be consequences for Israel for the flagrant breaches of international law. While I accept that approval for ACAA is not technically an upgrading, given that it is based on an existing Association Agreement, in practice it does allow access for Israeli pharmaceuticals to one of the most lucrative markets in the world.

Enhancing the EU’s partnership with Israel at this time serves only to undermine our own EU’s firm condemnation of Israeli policy. Our words must be followed up with actions if they are to have any real meaning or effect. I call on Members to act for peace and a lasting solution and to reject this Agreement at this point in time.

 
  
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  Frédérique Ries (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, this technical agreement has been in Parliament’s hands for two and a half years. Today, in spite of the specific responses a short while ago from Commissioner De Gucht, and from all of the Legal Services, it is still being obstructed. Mr Moreira, who is certainly never short of imagination, is therefore now about to ask for an umpteenth new report.

We should remember, however, that voting for the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) means facilitating the free movement of medicines between the European Union and Israel, primarily generic medicines that, thanks to the agreement, will treat European citizens more quickly, while allowing our national budgets to make savings that they sorely need at the moment.

Our task here today is to assess, to judge and to vote for or against, in good conscience. That is what a handful of our colleagues here in Parliament have been preventing us from doing for two and a half years. It has been quite difficult. As Shimon Peres used to say: ‘At some point, let’s agree to disagree; obviously this is the time’.

 
  
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  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen (Verts/ALE).(FR) Mr President, the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) is not a simple technical agreement. It means stronger EU-Israeli relations and free access to Europe’s single market even though the EU decided in 2009 to suspend the upgrading of its economic relations with Israel.

Supporting this agreement means acknowledging and encouraging the illegal settlement of the Palestinian territories; it means acknowledging and encouraging the illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza. The reports by our ambassadors in Jerusalem recommend that we adopt binding measures to put an end to the settlements. The European Union has stated that the Israeli settlement policy is an obstacle to peace so, for the sake of consistency, if we adopt the ACAA we should refuse the Nobel Peace Prize.

 
  
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  Michał Tomasz Kamiński (ECR). (PL) Mr President, it would seem that the agreement that we have been discussing today is quite obviously in the interests of European Union citizens. It is a technical agreement and we should vote in favour of it because it will help us to save money. No one is any doubt that Israeli medical products, in particular, are of the highest quality and no problems with their technical quality have ever been reported. Nevertheless, this debate has once again given rise to an outpouring of anti-Israeli rhetoric – much of which is actually lies – that bears no relation to reality.

Israel is a democracy and is not occupying anywhere. Israelis are entitled to build settlements on their own land, to which they are returning after so many years of exile. None of us should question that right. I would like to make it very clear that I consider it especially hypocritical, and quite outrageous, that people should attack a country and turn into an accusation the fact that we want to support a country that helps defend our civilisation, that also protects Europe from the threat of Islamic terrorism. Above all, it is particularly outrageous that those who wish to admonish Israel are the same people who fail to recognise the oppression of human rights in Cuba, who are able to applaud Fidel Castro, who do not see the problem in Venezuela, who, ultimately, do not see any problem with human rights in Belarus. Israel is a democracy and the loudest criticism of this country is frequently heard in its own parliament. I fully support the adoption of this agreement.

 
  
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  Fiorello Provera (EFD). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, once again when we discuss relations between the EU and Israel, this House has divided along ideological lines and dragged a technical agreement into the area of political opposition, ignoring its content.

The agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) is not an upgrading of relations between the EU and Israel; this is not an international legal measure defining frontiers and establishing rights of sovereignty. The legal services of Parliament and the Commission have approved it, underlining that the ACAA with Israel does not go beyond the existing legal framework. This is a technical agreement that will allow many European citizens easier access to quality medicinal products at a lower price, with considerable savings for our national health services. Italy will save about EUR 1 billion annually, a considerable sum in these difficult economic times. I therefore think that this agreement should be supported.

 
  
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  José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (PPE). (ES) Mr President, when the negotiating guidelines were adopted, the European Union – its 27 Member States, the Commission and this Parliament – had a commitment from Israel dating back to 2005.

Israel is a partner of the European Union and an essential participant in the peace process, even if we dislike the decisions that have been taken with regard to settlements and in spite of the fact that some of the decisions taken by the Israeli Government undeniably violate the rights of the Palestinian people.

After the elections in the United States, the peace process negotiations will be revived, and it is clear that the European Union cannot be excluded from this process. The European Union and this Parliament therefore need to honour their commitments and adopt this agreement.

Mr President, the interpretative amendment that has been tabled to the draft legislative resolution is clearly in violation of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, as Rule 83 states quite clearly that no amendments may be tabled to a draft legislative resolution.

Parliament is entitled to express its opinion through non-legislative resolutions and, in any case, the acceptance of this amendment sets a worrying precedent, which, if this decision is not reversed, is likely to be the subject of an appeal before the Court of Justice, leaving those who tabled and accepted the amendment in a sticky situation.

 
  
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  Maria Badia i Cutchet (S&D). (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, when a subject arouses such deep feeling and poses important challenges to the European Union’s effectiveness, consistency and credibility as a world player, it is not easy to take decisions calmly and with the desired consensus, especially when the decision concerns the Middle East, with a stalled peace process and elections due to take place in Israel.

I think that, right now, we in Parliament need to keep a cool head and attend fully to our responsibilities, ensuring that the European Union negotiates and implements its agreements effectively, consistently and, of course, in accordance with the Treaties, Court of Justice case-law and international law.

As far as I am concerned, the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products that we are debating today presents some legal, technical and institutional difficulties for the European Union, which are significant enough for no one in this Chamber to be able to deny.

Parliament’s Legal Service has confirmed that if Israel appoints a Responsible Authority competent throughout Israel for the application of this protocol, it will not be possible for the European Union to recognise it or for the protocol to be applied, as we cannot ignore the fact that, under Israeli law, Israeli territory includes territories beyond its 1967 borders.

For that reason, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament has drafted and supports amendments calling for the Council to make an interpretative declaration that avoids implicit recognition of Israeli sovereignty over these territories. In the event, the Council itself informs us that it is impossible for this interpretative declaration to provide a full guarantee that these territories will be clearly excluded from the scope of the protocol.

Furthermore, if this protocol were adopted as it stands, it could be amended and extended to cover other industrial products without the need to consult Parliament, which would again pose a problem as regards compliance with international law.

In view of these two issues, I think we essentially have no choice but to request that this protocol be referred back to the Committee on International Trade and, in the event that…

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Alexandra Thein (ALDE). (DE) Mr President, I do not wish to advance any political arguments against the ACAA Protocol, such as the idea that we are rewarding Israel for its human rights violations and sending out the wrong signal. Instead, I shall present some legal arguments. The Protocol states that the territorial competence of the Israeli Responsible Authority for pharmaceuticals, in this instance the Ministry of Health, is to be defined by Israel – in accordance with its own national law, of course. However, under Israel’s national law, the settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal under international law, and the illegally annexed areas of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are deemed to be Israeli territory. Due to the absence of any provision to the contrary in the Protocol, the worry is that Israel will extend the jurisdiction of the Responsible Authority to the Occupied Territories as well. When implementing the Protocol, the EU would thus be forced to recognise, for the first time, Israel’s claims to sovereignty over parts of the Occupied Territories. I therefore urge the Members of this House to vote against the ACAA Protocol today. As democratically elected Members of this House, we have an obligation to respect and uphold EU and international law as part of our set of values.

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the EU because we apply rule-of-law and democratic principles – not only in relation to the EU itself. How can we ... this important ...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  Jill Evans (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, I would like to echo the call from the rapporteur and from other colleagues to refer this agreement back to committee for further debate. I have been contacted by many constituents from Wales opposing this agreement, so it is a matter of grave concern that goes way beyond the walls of this Chamber.

I visited the West Bank earlier this month with my European Free Alliance colleagues in this Parliament. It was not my first visit, but it was no less shocking for that. We had many meetings and, whether we discussed education, freedom of movement, planning, prisoners, housing, land, water or transport – in fact whatever subject we discussed – we heard the same story of discrimination and ill-treatment of the Palestinian people.

What we heard too, and what we saw very clearly for ourselves, was that the situation is worsening all the time. We are not just talking about a technical agreement; we are talking about human rights, justice and international law, and we cannot put those issues aside when making this decision.

 
  
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  Ria Oomen-Ruijten (PPE). (NL) The external actions of the European Union must be based on international law and must be in line with the standards and values that the EU propagates. That must certainly also apply to bilateral relations with important partners such as Israel.

We in the Committee on Foreign Affairs have formulated three points on this. First, the Responsible Authority in Israel has no authority in the territories occupied since 1967. Second, no industrial products made in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem may be certified under the provisions of the protocol. Third, the Israeli authorities must treat Palestinian products from the occupied Palestinian territories on an equal footing.

We had a debate with Commissioner De Gucht in July and I quote what he said:

‘What I have been doing is giving you the assurances that in good faith I can give you. They are not watertight.’

(NL) Mr President, I want water-tight assurances and for that reason I would also like to support something that is being asked in the Protocol, but when we get an amendment to a Protocol all we can do is vote for or against, and I have a problem with that. I would therefore like the Council to take up the same responsibility as Commissioner De Gucht.

I really do not know what to do if I have to vote for an amendment, while we do not have any amendments with a Protocol, just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If you could give me those guarantees, I would know exactly how I should vote.

 
  
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  Gianluca Susta (S&D). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, nobody in this Parliament is in any doubt that the importance of the measure that we will be voting this evening goes well beyond the specific issue we are discussing. I have always considered myself to be a friend of Israel and I personally have no doubt that the conflict that has pitted a large part of the Arab world against Israel for decades is due mainly – if not exclusively – to the fact that too many in the Arab world do not want to recognise the right of the State of Israel to exist.

Having said that, however, we must also strongly condemn the repeated violations of international law and of the agreements signed by the Israeli Government, which have led to a downward spiral that Israel should – precisely because it claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East – make a definite effort to end.

We therefore request that this report be referred back to the Committee on International Trade and be shelved until Israel takes decisive steps towards dismantling its settlements in illegally occupied Palestinian territory and until it shows more respect for the Palestinian people’s right to exist. Such signals can be encouraged by a more effective European Foreign policy in the area, which today is altogether lacking.

Despite the fact that I am not voting in favour of the measure, I believe that Parliament should at least support the amendments by Mr Moreira, Ms De Keyser and Ms Schaake, aimed at preventing the extension of the advantages for Israel under this measure to products originating from the unlawfully Occupied Territories.

 
  
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  Hannu Takkula (ALDE). (FI) Mr President, as European decision-makers, we must always remember the European values, which are democracy, human rights, freedom of opinion and the principles of the rule of law.

The European Union also has one key concept of the internal market and the four freedoms. It is also very important for us to ensure that barriers to trade are removed. The Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) is a purely technical trade agreement that will remove barriers to trade. I find it worrying that some people here wish to politicise this agreement. That is wrong. I understand that there are anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli forces at work here that wish to politicise this matter, but let us go back to the basics – this is a technical and commercial agreement of great benefit to Europe. European taxpayers and citizens need cheaper, top-quality medicines and good medical supplies, and we need this agreement in order to be able to respond to these challenges.

I hope that this agreement will be voted through today. I am truly worried about this political environment. I remember that Europe has a history in which, when anti-Semitism started to foment sometime during the 1930s, the first thought was that people should not be allowed to buy from Jews. Look where that led. Some people want to express a slightly similar thought, namely that trade with Israel should cease, even though this is a technical agreement that will benefit all Europeans. I therefore hope that we will clearly vote in favour of the ACAA today.

 
  
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  Marietta Giannakou (PPE).(EL) Mr President, we are dealing here with a Protocol connected with Euro Mediterranean cooperation between the European Communities and Israel. This is certainly not a directly political case. Some, of course, maintain in Parliament that this constitutes the first upgrade of relations with Israel and hence may influence the dispute.

As a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, I, too, worked with my colleagues to deal with the problems which would arise in areas which have been occupied by Israel and which are not recognised by the European Union, in other words the post-1967 territories, and we submitted a question to Commissioner De Gucht through Mr Brok, and Commissioner De Gucht came here and made it clear that one party may very well impose terms upon the other, via the Protocol, whereby it does not recognise products that come from certain areas. Therefore the technical issue has essentially been solved.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine, Mr President, is something much deeper; it is not something that will be affected by this particular agreement, which of course concerns products which are of a high quality and are offered at very good prices by Israel.

It is naïve to believe that such an agreement can have anything to do with the essence of resolving the issue. The issue is much more complex and all of us here know the responsibilities that exist more generally, and the problems that hinder resolution of the issue, and of course we are aware of the European Union’s efforts to give full support to the Palestinians.

Therefore, we have no reason to link it with settlement of the problem. Besides, the two amendments do not legally exist, and therefore must have been dismissed.

 
  
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  George Sabin Cutaş (S&D).(RO) Mr President, the Agreement between the European Union and Israel on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) is mutually beneficial, but raises two issues of a legal nature. The first is the territorial expansion of the Israeli Responsible Authority: to respect European and international law, we must ensure that Israel differentiates between its own territory and the territories it occupies. The second relates to the various products that can be added to this agreement, unfortunately without the consent of the European Parliament. Pharmaceutical products will be followed by cosmetic ones, in a scenario in which Parliament will be deprived of its right as a co-legislator. The duty of the Union’s democratic forum is to draw attention to these legal loopholes and to vote responsibly, offering the European Commission the chance to clarify these problematic aspects of its proposal.

Therefore, I believe that this report should be referred back to the committee responsible and that we should adopt the declaration proposing the correct delimitation of the territorial expansion of the Israeli Responsible Authority. I hope that these matters will be examined in full by the Council and the Commission, regardless of the outcome of tonight’s vote.

 
  
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  Sarah Ludford (ALDE). – Mr President, I believe the best speech this afternoon has been by Mr Kasoulides, who cited the Barcelona Process and neighbourhood policy. I fervently believe that the EU’s role in promoting trade as a basis of dialogue and prosperity and its role in keeping its partners to democratic and human rights standards are part of a package, not one set against the other.

This is precisely the story of the EU itself, for which it received the Nobel Peace Prize. We can press our partners close on trade and on human rights at the same time. I voted for the agreement on agricultural trade with Palestine last year, despite some shocking reports – particularly on Hamas abuses in Gaza – most recently by Human Rights Watch and the Carnegie Endowment, because I believe in strengthening EU trade and economic links with the whole region.

I think this whole approach of critics, which sees trade relations with parties as a zero-sum game, is hopelessly unproductive. As my colleague Marietje Schaake said, exactly how would rejection of this ACAA Agreement actually improve the situation of Palestinians? This is not about patting Israel on the back or rewarding it. It is not a political upgrade. It is part of the steady development of a neighbourhood policy of engagement.

By the way, I think Foreign Minister Lieberman’s rude rebuff to Cathy Ashton was stupid but is hardly the most important issue on the radar.

 
  
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  Paweł Zalewski (PPE). (PL) Mr President, we are talking about an agreement between the European Union and Israel that will improve access in the EU to generic medicines from Israel. Their prices may fall as a result, benefiting EU citizens. Nevertheless, this agreement has been questioned in this Chamber, not on technical or substantive grounds but on political grounds. It has been criticised in an attempt to make it a hostage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I, personally, have been very critical and, in many cases, taken a very negative view of Israel’s policy towards the Occupied Territories; however, I am in favour of this agreement for the following reasons.

Firstly, the agreement concerns Israel within its recognised borders, which is the World Trade Organisation standard and is clear to all. There are instruments in place to ensure that incorrectly labelled products are detected.

Secondly, the blocking of this agreement would amount to the imposition of sanctions, sanctions that Parliament is not empowered to establish or initiate.

Thirdly, it is important to find a solution to the conflict between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, but we should actually be doing something more effective; we should ask the Council and Commission to take more effective action to that end.

Fourthly, blocking this agreement would send a very negative signal to Israel, especially now, when it is under huge pressure, including from Iran, which is on the brink of reaching nuclear weapons capability.

I am therefore opposed to the amendments that have been tabled and in favour of the agreement, which is beneficial to the European Union, while also supporting increased mediation by the EU in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 
  
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  Marek Siwiec (S&D). (PL) Mr President, you would think, from listening to this debate, that this Chamber were divided into those who support peace and those who are opposed to peace in the Middle East; into those who spread violence and those who are against it. That is, however, a false dichotomy; we all want the same thing for the Middle East. I respect the fact that there are people in this Chamber who are against the Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) Protocol, but I would like them to set aside hypocrisy and to cease their talk of the origin of products. Today we have the ability to check where a particular orange was grown, and are we not capable of establishing where medicines were produced? These people should stop the hypocrisy; it is fine for them simply to say that they are against the protocol.

I support the protocol and I shall tell you why: if a dose of medicine costs PLN 40, or EUR 10, in Poland today, it could be 10 % cheaper. A poor person in Poland could spend PLN 4 less on the same medicine and, with that PLN 4, buy some lunch instead. Today, those who are against this very agreement need to tell that poor person directly: I am against it and I refuse you that one additional lunch. That is a boundary of hypocrisy that should not be crossed, even in politics.

I have one more thing to say: I have heard it said that the Israeli Government is no good. That may be true, but I was speaking recently to the leader of the Israeli Labour Party, which is in opposition, and he wholeheartedly supports this agreement, because it furthers cooperation in the interests of a forward-looking Israel, an Israel to which those who love peace also belong.

 
  
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  Sari Essayah (PPE). (FI) Mr President, first of all I would like to thank Mr Siwiec. I would hope that the whole Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament could speak in the same emphatic way in relation to this matter, because this Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) concerning trade in pharmaceuticals is indeed about the reciprocal approval of technical regulations.

It is a requirement for concluding the agreement that the partner country, in this case Israel, has transposed the EU’s rules into its own national legislation, and of course it would be lovely for a country outside the EU to follow the same rules. In practice, as many people have said here, this means that there would be no need for a separate approval procedure that adds time and costs, and so it is consumers, European consumers, who will be the winners here.

The total economic impact on the EU will be positive; the value of trade between the EU and Israel in products falling within the scope of this agreement has been nearly EUR 1 billion, so recognition of certification will entail savings and promote exports. There will also be benefits that cannot even be measured quantitatively, like the fact that predictability for businesses may improve, systems will come to be standardised, and there may also be a reduction in protectionism.

Some assessments have been presented here according to which the agreement could be interpreted as an upgrade in relations between the EU and Israel or as a reinforcement of relations in a situation where the Middle East peace process has stalled. It is worth remembering that the peace process needs two sides, and the Palestinian side has not been willing to come to the table. It should also be remembered that the negotiations on the ACAA form part of the EU-Israel action plan already agreed within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2004.

I personally would hope that we could engage in more and more cooperation between the EU and Israel in even more areas, since it really would benefit both sides. I appeal to my colleagues to vote in favour of this agreement today.

 
  
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  Inese Vaidere (PPE).(LV) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, an additional protocol on bilateral cooperation between the European Union and Israel is mutually beneficial and extremely important. It will improve access to cheap, generic medicines, eliminating technical restrictions. Israel’s medicines are among the best in the world, and many medical establishments use them, including most European health care bodies. The Protocol will speed up the long certification procedure, reducing costs and improving access to drugs, making it possible for patients to pay less. This, particularly in the current crisis, is very important to each of our citizens. The highest level of drug quality control will be retained, as demanded by European regulatory bodies.

The Protocol also covers opportunities to export European drug products to Israel. At a time when we are talking about support for innovation, this would ensure real support for the largest innovation sector, pharmaceuticals. Thus it would lead to jobs and growth, too. The Protocol would also serve as a first step in other sectors of industry, in order to harmonise European and Israeli legislation. By bringing in a common certification system, we could reduce the cost of importing generic drugs by as much as EUR 10 billion per year, and the new certification procedures will ensure that only Israeli companies that are registered and approved by the European Union will be able to produce drugs for export. Thus only the best tested drugs will reach the European market. Businesses, which will be subject to the one-off certification procedure, will reduce production time to as little as three years. The economic gain from the Protocol is obvious. There is another gain: support for a democratic regime in this region torn apart by conflict and violence. I can only agree with Mr Caspary that if we conclude an agreement with Palestine, then we should do the same with Israel. I call upon my fellow Members to support the adoption of the Protocol without delay. Thank you.

 
  
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  Alf Svensson (PPE). (SV) Mr President, it would be interesting to compare a debate like this one on the trade agreement with Israel to debates that have been held on other trade agreements all over the world. It has been said that this would be some sort of gift or reward for Benjamin Netanyahu. After all, it is a good thing to reject the EU’s own capacity to engage in trade, and it is a remarkable way of thinking, is it not?

Of course we know that today, here in this Europe of ours, unimaginable quantities of medicines originating from Israel are prescribed. They are said to be in the order of 3.5 million per day. We also know that these medicines are cheaper, as has recently been said in this House. After all, it is not completely wrong if the EU can procure something that is cheaper and of the highest quality when it is a matter of fighting type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and reducing blood pressure.

Someone in this Chamber said that we always talk about human rights whenever we talk about China. That is true, although I have not heard anyone say that we should break off trade with China. If that is the case, this should be one of the consequences.

We cannot talk about the Occupied Territories without at the same time daring to say why those territories are occupied and why Israel does not stay behind the 1967 borders. I think it is tremendously simplistic to forget all about that, if we do have to take it up in this debate, which should not be necessary at all but which so very many people have done.

This agreement was, therefore, approved two and a half years ago, and is now being messed about and tinkered with here. It would be right and honest to talk about why it is being tinkered with, because this is absurd. Instead, we are infecting the opportunities for making an impact on the Middle East, and of course people believed that Parliament would not want to do that.

 
  
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  Christofer Fjellner (PPE). (SV) Mr President, the fact that the Social Democrats and the Left here at Parliament have turned the Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) into a pawn in a great political game about the Middle East is both irresponsible and a breach of the trust of sick people in both Israel and Europe who need medicines. It is wrong to assert that this agreement is about upgrading trade relations between the EU and Israel.

The agreement is not about upgraded relations or the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It is about facilitating the introduction and approval of new medicines, all so that sick people in Israel and Europe can have access to the best medicine as cheaply and quickly as possible. Stopping this agreement would be tantamount to punishing those whom we should agree are completely blameless in this conflict, namely sick people.

We started this work back in 2010, and at that time we worked in parallel on an agreement with Palestine on fruit and vegetables. In 2011 I voted for approval of the trade agreement with Palestine on fruit and vegetables. We did it in parallel simply because we did not wish to send any political signals to one side or the other. However, the left has stopped the agreement with Israel and only approved the agreement with Palestine. This makes a great political game out of something that should not have been a great political game.

I would like to finish by saying that sick people in Europe should not pay the price for the Left wanting to score political points on something like this that should actually be capable of making people’s lives easier, both in Israel and in Europe.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE). (SK) Mr President, this proposal goes far beyond the agreement reached between the Commission and Israel in relation to products manufactured in Israeli settlements. I am fundamentally against using this agreement to punish Israel. Some of our fellow Members have used this debate to give spiteful political speeches against Israel. It annoys me that we are applying double standards to countries.

We are all trying to settle the conflict in the Middle East, but the solution does not lie in applying trade pressure to one side. This is particular true if even Commissioner De Gucht believes that the current mechanisms relating to the control of products manufactured in Israeli settlements adequate.

 
  
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  Charles Tannock (ECR). – Mr President, the ACAA Protocol is not about human rights, the Occupied Territories or Israel’s approach to the Middle East peace process. It is about trade and unblocking technical barriers which currently exist between producers and consumers: one of the fundamental objectives of the European Union

For the record, and for those who have raised the issue repeatedly, I have received repeated assurances that there are no pharmaceutical products being manufactured in the settlements. Supporting ACAA does not endorse the expansion of settlements or indeed any other Israeli policy, neither does it increase goods with a provenance from the Occupied Territories. It does, however, enable Israel, which has a highly sophisticated regulatory authority, to certify medical products, a task for which it is more than equipped, to the benefit of all of Europe’s citizens.

People here, who have sought to block it, are cutting off their nose to spite their face. Israel is a global leader in producing cheap and safe, effective generic medicines. Those opposed to ACAA are more interested in bashing Israel than in promoting the welfare of Europe’s sick.

 
  
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  Adrian Severin (NI). – Mr President, besides technicalities and legalistic issues, this is a highly political topic. We have our values, but we also have our geopolitical interests, and our values will never prevail and will never flourish if we cannot win in our geostrategic endeavours. This is precisely why, to promote both the political interests of our citizens and their values, we have to stop the filibustering of the coming into force of this Agreement. Therefore, I hope that today our vote will bring this odyssey to an end.

 
  
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  Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). (SK) Mr President, the Protocol to the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) between Member States of the European Union and Israel will facilitate trade through a unified regulatory framework, especially in the field of drugs and pharmaceuticals and in particular generics. I am convinced that, from an economic and technical standpoint, this protocol to an existing agreement, especially in a time of economic crisis, is a beneficial step forward not only for industry, but in particular for the end user, the European patient.

Israel is an important democratic partner for the EU in the Middle East and the progress in mutual relations is demonstrated by 60 new joint projects in 15 different areas adopted recently in the EU-Israel Association Council. I unequivocally support the adoption of this agreement, as rejection of it would certainly not represent a constructive stance or contribute to an improvement in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

 
  
 

(End of the catch-the-eye procedure)

 
  
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  Karel De Gucht, Member of the Commission. − Mr President, I think the whole debate demonstrates that this is a very political technical debate. There has been a lot of discussion on this topic in the committee and in plenary. I am not going to say anything further. It is now up to the House to make its decision.

 
  
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  Vital Moreira, rapporteur.(PT) Mr President, I have two final comments: first, there has not been one day’s delay in this procedure due to any statement, position or unilateral decision on my part. I was not the original rapporteur for this procedure, but became the rapporteur unwillingly. All of the decisions in this procedure, and in fact the procedure as a whole, have been handled with the utmost transparency and full agreement of the committee. The accusation made against me by a representative of Israeli interests in this Parliament is not only stupid, but also discredits the person making the accusation. Second, my objection to this proposal and my original position as rapporteur have nothing to do with Israeli policy. They concern us and the consistency that the Treaty requires our external policies to have. My position has always been that it is the consistency of the Union’s external policies which is at stake. I cannot see how it is possible to condemn Israel for what it is doing in relation to the Occupied Territories and then, at the same time, when we have an opportunity to put pressure on Israel to take notice of our condemnations, to give it a prize of this nature. Tomorrow Israel will be laughing like mad at our policy positions, because it knows that they are purely self-serving and hypocritical, and that when it comes to enforcing them, we cannot.

Lastly, I must make a personal statement: I do not belong to any anti-Israeli movement; I do not belong to any friends of Palestinians association; I owe nothing to either side – I repeat, I owe nothing to either side – and I would like everyone speaking in this debate to be able to say the same thing with the same frankness.

 
  
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  President. (HU) The debate is closed.

The vote will take place today.

Written statement (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Csanád Szegedi (NI), in writing.(HU) Ladies and gentlemen, in any debate we should speak only with respect when referring to Israel. In recent decades Israel has set an example of how to build a modern democracy despite the difficulties facing it in one of the world’s most politically volatile regions. The Jewish state has demonstrated that it is possible to create freedom and peace for people even in an area where dictatorships are being established and hatred fomented. I firmly believe that the European Parliament has an ethical and moral obligation to support any measure that brings Israel and the European Union closer together; in cultural terms, after all, Israel is part of Europe. Israel is the kind of state that also consistently demonstrates its maturity with regard to human rights, and so the European Union should exercise caution before interfering in Israel’s internal affairs. I also take this opportunity to express my wish for peace as soon as possible for the peoples of the Middle East.

 
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