Take action to end European trade with illegal settlements – CIDSE

Take action to end European trade with illegal settlements

Cover photo: The Um Zuqa farm is one of six “farms” set up by settlers in the northern Jordan Valley in the past five years. The farm was built in 2016 on a site that housed the Palestinian village of Khirbet al-Mzoqah, which Israel demolished after occupying the West Bank. Credit: Eyal Hareuveni, B’Tselem.

Sign the European Citizens’ Initiative!

On 20 February 2022, a coalition of over 100 international and European civil society organisations launched a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to ban trade with illegal settlements in occupied territories around the world, including Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT)[1] and the Golan heights.

The European Citizens’ Initiative is an official tool to amplify the voices of EU citizens and enhance their democratic participation. If, within one year from its launch, the initiative collects one million signatures from citizens across the EU member states, the European Commission will be legally bound to take the proposal into consideration, to discuss it with signatories and, possibly, to initiate legislative action.[2]

The ECI is asking for general measures outlawing trade with illegal settlements, as a way of correcting EU Common Commercial Policy and making it compliant with International Law, a request recognised by the European Court of Justice[3] and the European Commission as falling under the Commission’s scope[4]. The initiative is not asking for sanctions against any countryspecifically, but could be applied generally to any country establishing illegal settlements in occupied territories. For decades now, areas such as the occupied Palestinian territory and the Western Sahara have faced foreign military occupation.[5]. In these regions, the local inhabitants have seen themselves forced out of their homes, while settlers are moved in with the support of occupying forces to change the local demography and cement the occupiers’ control.

International Law clearly stipulates that population transfers in occupied territories are illegal.[6] When it comes to the occupied Palestinian territory, the EU has repeatedly recognised the illegal status of settlements[7] applying a regime of differentiation between Israel and the OPT[8] in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2334.[9]

However, in its day-to-day operations, the EU continues to trade with illegal settlements, legitimising their status and allowing them to benefit from access to the common market. This happens while Palestinians are routinely displaced and their access to farmlands and water resources is denied, making any future plans for Palestinian statehood functionally impossible.[10] By continuing to trade with illegal settlements, the EU – the largest external market for Israeli goods[11] – is complicit in the dispossession of the Palestinian people and the denial of their right to self-determination. In the current state of affairs, the Union fails to live up to international standards and to its own words. As the UN Special Rapporteur for Israel and the OPT wrote in his last situation of Human Rights report[12], “the European Union has acted passively towards the occupation, without any clear movement towards holding the occupying actor accountable. This passivity must end today.”

CIDSE supports the ECI initiative as part of its mission to ensure respect for international law where human rights violations are rife, as well as pushing for rules to hold companies accountable for their impact and complicity in human rights violations. CIDSE believes commercial interests cannot be allowed to trump the fundamental rights of communities living under occupation. This initiative also connects to CIDSE and its OPTI partners’ involvement in the ongoing negotiations for a UN Binding Treaty on Business and Human Rights, a set of mandatory rules for countries to prevent, address and remedy abuses of human rights and the environment committed by corporate actors.

CIDSE calls on all EU citizens to express their solidarity with communities living under occupation everywhere and sign the initiative demanding the EU to fulfil its obligations under International Law and ban all trade with illegal settlements in occupied territories. 

By signing the European Citizens’ Initiative below, you urge the European Commission and EU member states to: 

  1. Seriously consider the European’s Citizens’ Initiative to stop trade with settlements and regulate commercial transactions with entities based or operating in occupied territories
  2. Correct EU Common Commercial Policy and ensure its conformity with EU principles and International Law
  3. Cut all commercial ties between EU legal entities and illegal settlements in occupied territories, ensuring their products do not enter the European market.

CIDSE members are supporting the ECI. You can find their positions at:

Sign here:

[1] https://europa.eu/citizens-initiative/initiatives/details/2021/000008_en.
[2] Regulation (EU) 2019/788 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the European citizens’ initiative (2019),PE/92/2018/REV/1, art. 3.
[3] https://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=241186&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=7567201.
[4] Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2021/1484 of 8 September 2021 on the request for registration of the European citizens’ initiative entitled ‘Ensuring Common Commercial Policy conformity with EU Treaties and compliance with international law’ pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2019/788 of the European Parliament and of the Council (2021) L 328/1.
[5] United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Res 2334 (23 December 2016) UN Doc S/RES/2334.
[6] Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (adopted 12 August 1949, entry into force 21 October 1950) 75 UNTS 287 (Fourth Geneva Convention) art 49. [1] 2001 Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, UN Doc. A/56/10, at Art. 41.
[7] https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/israel-statement-spokesperson-new-settlement-expansion_en.
[8] Agreement between the European Union and the State of Israel on the participation of the State of Israel in the Union programme ‘Horizon 2020 — the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) (2014) L 177/1, art. 6.1.
[9] United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Res 2334 (23 December 2016) UN Doc S/RES/2334.
[10] B’tselem, “State Business – Israel’s misappropriation of land in the West Bank through settler violence” (B’tselem November 2021), p.7.
[11] https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/israel/#:~:text=The%20EU%20is%20Israel’s%20biggest,exports%20went%20to%20the%20EU.
[12] United Nations Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk (22 October 2021) A/76/433 para. 43.

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