Nazareth – Last Tuesday evening, October 24th, the parliament of the European Union voted on the EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance (ACAA) protocol. Despite an impassioned argument from Belgian Socialist MEP Veronique de Keyser for the ACAA protocol to return to committee stage, the protocol was passed. The ACAA is an addition to the EU-Israel Association Agreement of 1995 and it stipulates that Israeli pharmaceutical products are held to a high enough standard to be sold in the EU. The vote, in addition to reducing trade barriers, also sets a precedent for further trade agreements between the two parties.
The vote passed with 379 MEPs in favor, 230 against, and 41 abstentions. Supporters of the assent procedure described their rationale in terms of international trade while detractors saw this as an opportunity to activate the human rights conditionality of the law.
Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) General Director, Mohammad Zeidan, responds to the vote, “The failure of the EU to link human rights with trade agreements makes all the promises of the EU to prioritize human rights empty. The European Parliament’s decision sends two bad signs. One to Israeland all the other governments in the region, it says that they will not be held accountable for their human rights violations. Second, it says to the victims that the violation of their rights is not taken into account in Israel’s trade agreements.”
In a letter to members of the European Parliament prior to the vote, The HRA, along with international and European human rights organizations, advised that human rights conditionality should be activated in the case of the ACAA protocol. In terms of setting precedent, this vote not only alleviates trade restrictions, it also signals that the European Union is neglecting its responsibility towards international human rights.
Though the outcome of this vote is a disappointment, our future efforts will not be stymied. The HRA will continue to advocate in the EU on behalf of the human rights issues facing the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel.