Plenary speech by Marietje Schaake
Marietje Schaake, on behalf of the ALDE Group – Mr President, human rights are essential for this Parliament and for the EU. This is the essence of our values and is also reflected in our trade policies, where we find conditionalities for respect for human rights in relation to all countries across the world with which we have trade relations. This also applies to Israel in the context of the Association Agreement. The vote today concerns the Protocol that stems from that Association Agreement and deals with the pharmaceuticals sector, and with technical requirements and mutual recognition of quality standards. As such, it should be seen as a technical dossier. But, of course, MEPs on both the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on International Trade believed it was important to seek legal guarantees, because we do not want to, directly or indirectly, allow the territorial jurisdiction of Israeli authorities over the Occupied Territories. Nor do we want to allow products from the settlements to enter the EU market. We sought legal certainty and we believe that we have acquired the requisite assurances now. We also, as Members of this Parliament, attach a statement where we reiterate how important we think it is that Israel respect human rights. This is not only important for us and for the Palestinian people but, most of all, for Israel’s future. The Israeli Government is actually on a path to self-isolation which is not working, making bold statements that the EU should solve its own problems before addressing others. In fact, it is important that the EU show its strength and its muscle, and this Protocol does not provide a very effective tool for that purpose. If we want to address human rights violations in Israel – and I think we should – we should do so on the basis of the conditionalities provided for under the Association Agreement. (The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8)) Question to Marietje Schaake by Paul Murphy Response Marietje Schaake to question by Paul Murphy Marietje Schaake (ALDE), Blue-card answer – Mr Murphy, as I mentioned, human rights are essential for the European Union. I work on human rights on a daily basis and it is a key driver for the work that I do here at Parliament. To prepare myself for the vote today and for the text and the work on this Protocol, I have spoken to a number of organisations, representing mostly those who care about the human rights of Palestinians. We have to ask ourselves whether rejecting this Protocol would actually improve the lives of Palestinians – and I do not think it will. So I think we must actually use the tools that we have which are stronger – the conditionality agreements that we find in the Association Agreement with Israel – and take this up onto the level that gives us the basis to address matters. The credibility of this Parliament is important in order for it to be a broker of real solutions in the Middle East peace conflict, and bending the procedures in utterly creative ways actually harms the credibility of this Parliament and will not do us any good when seeking solutions that work for the Palestinian people.