Diplomacy

Greece Rejects EU Labeling Guidelines After PM Calls Jerusalem Israel’s Capital

Greece became the second European nation to declare its refusal to abide by the European Union’s newly issued guidelines on labeling Israeli products manufactured beyond the 1949 armistice lines, i24 news reported Tuesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was made aware of Greece’s decision after receiving a letter from Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias.

Greece’s rejection of the EU guidelines comes days after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visited Israel. While in Jerusalem, Tsipras signed the guest book of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, saying that it was a “great honor to be in your historic capital and to meet your excellencies.” Tsipras’ acknowledgement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was called “unprecedented, especially for a European leader” by an unnamed former Israeli diplomat.

Greece is the second European nation to announce its opposition to the labeling guidelines. Last month, Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó also expressed his government’s rejection of the EU directive during a visit to Israel. “We do not support that decision. It is an inefficient instrument. It is irrational and does not contribute to a solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], but causes damage,” Szijjártó explained.

Germany’s ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union, also criticized the guidelines last month. Jürgen Hardt, a spokesman for the party, said, “In this case there foremost is a danger of a stigma. An anti-Israeli movement might exploit the decision and put it to use on anti-Israeli campaigns.” Hardt added that the party “considers that stigmatization and boycott are not probate to facilitate the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The EU’s controversial labeling initiative has been lambasted by critics as a form of discrimination against Israel.

Legal scholars Avi Bell and Eugene Kontorovich pointed out in a paper (.pdf) published in October that, while there are approximately 200 territorial disputes worldwide, “the EU has never unilaterally adopted a regulation requiring geographic labelling contrary to the exporting country’s certificate of origination,” except in the case of Israel. The EU’s new guidelines, they argued, therefore amount to “unlawful trade barriers.”

In November, Danielle Pletka, a senior vice-president at the American Enterprise Institute, equated the EU’s decision with past European practices towards Jews, writing:

What, you say, but there are no Jews occupying those other places? We only condemn the Jews? Well, of course. Because only the Jews are especially worthy of EU condemnation. Next, a yellow star. Now that would be bold.

[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]