Judges in Europe’s highest court have heard a “landmark” case focused on a French law regarding the labelling of goods from the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
The case was brought by Psagot Winery Ltd, located in the West Bank, against an opinion published by the French Minister of Economics and Finance in November 2016. It was heard last year before the French Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest court, which referred it to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
This stated that products from the Golan Heights or West Bank have to be labelled as coming from Israeli settlements – “colonies Israéliennes” – or equivalent terms.
At the European Court of Justice (ECJ), lawyers for Psagot – supported by the US-based Lawfare Project – argued that applying the label “colonies Israéliennes” goes beyond the law.
They said the law was not designed for political labelling but for clear consumer information and that applying the law in this way opens a “Pandora’s Box” requiring complex labelling for products from disputed territories around the world.
“I am confident that the ECJ will be very careful to keep its interpretation of EU law within a legal framework, without making foreign policy,” said Psagot lawyer Francois-Henri Briard.
ECJ president Koen Lenaerts heard arguments from representatives of Sweden, Ireland and France, which advocate settlement labelling, but Briard said: “The purpose of EU rules is to protect health for consumers and provide fair information on food products; it has nothing to do with political geography.”
He added: “The attempts of the European Commission to justify the use of the word ‘colony’ using an argument based on social and ethical consumer information, goes beyond EU text and looks like an awkward legal framework. I do not think the ECJ will follow such poor and political argument.”
The Lawfare Project’s Brooke Goldstein said: “of the hundreds of territorial disputes around the world, it is Israeli businesses alone that find themselves targeted… The importance of the Court’s decision should not be understated.”