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Brussels, 23 April 2009
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, said: "Over the past year, Israel and the European Union have continued to deepen their relationship as witnessed by the progress made in several areas. Both parties are convinced of the potential benefit of constructive cooperation. I hope that the new Israeli government will pursue and develop this partnership alongside working together with the EU for the creation of a viable and democratic Palestinian State living side by side in peace with Israel."
EU–Israel relations: basic facts
The EU-Israel Association Agreement entered into force in 2000, replacing an earlier 1975 Cooperation Agreement. It includes free trade arrangements for industrial goods and concessions on trade in agricultural products. An additional agreement deepening mutual concessions in trade in agricultural products entered into force in 2004.
The ENP Action Plan was adopted in April 2005 for a period of three years, and extended for another year in 2008. Since the June 2008 Association Council’s positive response to Israel’s upgrading request, work had started on the identification of possible actions for a new instrument in the framework of subcommittee meetings and in meetings of an ad hoc steering group. By the end of 2008, initial technical discussions were held for all the areas under Community competence.
In addition to institutional cooperation through the EU–Israel Association Council, the EU–Israel Association committee and ten subcommittees enabled both sides to move forward and to drive implementation of the ENP Action Plan.
Overall context and 2008 assessment
Any considerations of bilateral EU-Israel relations, including in the context of the ENP Action Plan, must take into account overall political developments in the Middle East. The year 2008 ended with the Gaza conflict. Following the collapse of a six-month long truce between Hamas and Israel on 27 December Israel launched operation “Cast Lead” which lasted until 17 January. The EU deeply deplored the loss of life during this conflict, particularly the civilian casualties and said it would follow closely investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law.
The EU and Israel have been active partners in the framework of the ENP, as demonstrated by the progress made in implementing a large number of priorities of the Action Plan. Throughout 2008, Israel’s willingness to engage with the EU in a constructive dialogue on sensitive issues continued to grow, and closer political co-operation and dialogue was achieved.
However, progress with regard to the promotion of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law was limited, as was cooperation with the EU on a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The situation of minorities, in particular the Arab minority, in Israel, continued settlement expansion, restrictions on movement and access in both the West Bank and Gaza, the resumption of house demolitions, and administrative detention, including for minors, were among the concerns raised by the EU in its dialogue with the Israeli authorities.
Some examples of how the ENP deepens the EU-Israel relationship
Negotiations aiming at achieving a greater EU-Israel reciprocal liberalisation of trade in agricultural, processed agricultural products and fish and fishery products were concluded in April 2008, These trade concessions represent a major step forward in the integration of the EU and Israeli markets;
The European Commission and Israel signed in December 2008 the horizontal air transport agreement bringing bilateral air service agreements between Member States and Israel in line with EC law. In April 2008, the European Commission received from the Council of the European Union a mandate for a comprehensive EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean aviation agreement providing for gradual market opening and a high level of regulatory convergence; a first negotiation round took place in December 2008.
The EU and Israel launched negotiations on an Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products and in one of the priority sectors, namely - Good Manufacturing Practice for pharmaceuticals, in November 2008. Once concluded, this agreement will constitute an important step towards Israel's integration in the Single Market.
Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the European Commission re-launched in 2008 trilateral energy cooperation with the aim of facilitating the joint Israeli-Palestinian “Solar for Peace” initiative and the establishment of a joint energy office. An EC financed study was undertaken to support this project.
Israeli researchers were particularly successful in the Ideas, Information and Communication Technologies and the Health programmes of the 7TH Framework Programme for Research and Development. Science and technology cooperation between Israel and the EU remained very strong as Israel has been associated to the 7th Framework Programme from its start in January 2007.
The European Commission and Israel also signed a Joint Declaration on co-operation and dialogue in education and training. Several additional scholars received scholarships under Erasmus Mundus as well as scholarships in European integration studies at master level.
The bilateral cooperation fight against terrorism has continued to progress. In addition to regular contacts among specialists, an ad-hoc “Israel-EU troika ENP seminar on the dilemmas and concerns of democracies in fighting terrorism” took place in December 2008 in Brussels. Israeli experts participated in a seminar on best practices in the fight against terrorist financing with their EU counterparts in March 2008.
Israel is making use of the new possibilities for ENP partner countries’ to participate in Community programmes. Israel is the first ENP country to participate in the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme which promotes innovation, entrepreneurship and growth of small and medium sized businesses. The Protocol on the general principles governing the State of Israel’s participation in Community programmes was signed in April 2008 and will be formally concluded once the European Parliament gives its assent.
The EU and Israel pursued their cooperation in supporting initiatives tackling racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Cooperation activities with Israel
In 2008, the European Commission continued to support activities for the implementation of the Action Plan priorities in Israel mainly through institutional co-operation/Twinning and programmed assistance for a total amount of €2 million under the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI). This support was a part of an indicative amount of €8 million, which has been allocated for the period 2007-10 under the ENPI.
The Communication from the Commission to the Parliament and the Council Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2008 (23 April 2009) and a country report on Israel are available at
More on Israel and ENP
See also IP/09/625 EU reinforces ties with its neighbours and continues to support their reforms.