EU Parliament Passes ACAA Protocol

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.

Don’t vote for ACAA!

Nazareth- The Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) calls  on the Members of the European Parliament NOT to give their vote to an important trade agreement with Israel,sending a clear message to Israel that the Arab Palestinian minority in Israel won’t stand for ‘business as usual’ given the deterioration of the situation on the ground.

The European Parliament’s plenary session is due to vote on the EU-Israel ACAA protocol on 23 October 2012. At this occasion, the HRA urges MEPs to suspend their vote on the ACAA protocol so as not to create a legal precedent that could further jeopardise a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. These concerns have been echoed in the outcome of the vote in the international trade committee of the European Parliament on September 18th, which gave a consent vote to ACAA with a surprisingly tight margin for a technical agreement (15 in favour, 13 against and two abstentions) and could now be overturned in the Plenary session of the European Parliament.

ACAA, or the Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products, is a protocol attached to the EU-Israel Association Agreement. In practice, this agreement allows industrial products to enter the respective markets of the parties without additional testing and conformity assessment procedures. In practice, this means that both European and Israeli consumers will have quicker access to more and cheaper pharmaceuticals goodsRegardless of potential benefits, this vote represents an opportunity to show thatIsrael’s human rights violations will not stand.

Our organisation argues that:

  • The protocol implies the recognition of an Israeli authority that is competent over the settlements in the OPT and annexed territories;
  • This protocol shows the lack of coherence in EU Foreign Policy;
  • The EU should stick to the principle of ‘positive conditionality’ and ask Israel to commit to its human rights obligations;
  • While not technically an ‘upgrade’, ACAA is still an important strengthening of bilateral relations between the EU and Israel;
  • The agreement does not account for the fact that the Israeli pharmaceutical industry is deeply involved in the occupation, with devastating consequences for Palestinians in need of basic healthcare.

HRA General Director, Mohammad Zeidan, sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament asking them to withhold their consent to this agreement until there is tangible progress in Israel’s respect for international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL). ACAA is not just a technical agreement – it has implications for the Parliament’s credibility in ensuring that the EU upholds human rights in its foreign policy, in the Middle East region in particular.

At present, there is only one annex to the ACAA protocol, which covers pharmaceutical products,; however, in the future other annexes could be added like cosmetics and toys.

Negotiation on the ACAA Protocol between the EU and Israel started in early 2009. The ACAA Protocol was signed in May 2010 and has since been waiting for the assent vote of the European Parliament. The final vote on October 24 maybe be remembered as a watershed moment in the advancement of EU/Israel relations, lets not let the EU’s human rights obligations be forgotten.

The HRA letter to the MEPs was a part of a larger campaign organized by the Euromed Human Rights Network, which is a coalition of human rights organization based in Europe and the Middle East.

Upcoming EU-Israel ACAA vote an opportunity for acountability

September 5, 2012

Nazareth – This past week the Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA) sent letters to the members of European Parliament on the INTA Committee, which is set to vote September 18 on the EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA).

The INTA Committee will vote on the future of a new protocol that would accelerate trade relations between Israel and the EU.   The HRA, along with our colleagues in the Euro-Med Human Rights Network (EMHRN), advocate the suspension of assent procedure until Israel complies with several human rights law and international humanitarian law standards.  The Treaty of the European stipulates concern for human rights standards in consideration of any trade agreements, so this advocacy has solid legal precedent.  Furthermore, a vote in assent to new ACAA protocol would amount to an acceptance of Israel violations of human rights in its own territory and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The HRA encouraged the MEPs on the INTA Committee to vote for a suspension in order to send a clear message that the status quo in the OPT and the status of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel is unsustainable.

The HRA, in coordination with the EMHRN, will continue to reaffirm the consideration of human rights and international law standards in EU-Israel relations and will target advocacy accordingly.  Mohammad Zeidan, General Director of the HRA, said preparation of the meeting “Israel should not be rewarded for violating human rights and the EU should send a clear message that human rights are an essential element of its foreign policy with Israel as with all other countries in the world.”