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West Bank Goods Can Be Taxed, EU Adviser Says

(CN) - Products made in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not entitled to duty-free import into Europe, an adviser to the Court of Justice determined.

Advocate General Yves Bot said the "occupied territories" may not be considered part of Israel, because the European Union only recognizes the boundaries of Israel as defined by the 1947 United Nations partition plan.

The opinion was in response to a 2006 lawsuit brought by German company Brita against the port of Hamburg, which refused to grant duty-free status for imported accessories and drink syrups produced by Soda-Club, a company based in the West Bank.

German customs authorities, after suspecting that the products originated in the occupied territories, unsuccessfully sought confirmation from Israeli authorities.

Bot suggested that bilateral European Union free-trade agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization govern the dispute, and that the exporting country should provide certification of a product's origin.

But the case centers on whether the West Bank and Gaza Strip are considered part of Israel for customs purposes.

Because the EU recognizes only the UN partition plan, which does not include these areas as part of Israel, the products may only be exempt from import duty with valid Palestinian certificates of origin.

If the Court of Justice adopts Bot's opinion, Brita would have to pay the extra import duty.

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