Brussels, 12 May 2010
ENP Country Progress Report 2009 – Israel
The Commission published on 12 May 2010 the so-called neighbourhood package, consisting of an overall assessment of five years of implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), 12 country reports on developments in 2009, including one on Israel, and a sector report.
Israel remained an active partner in the framework of the ENP. This was demonstrated by progress made in implementing a large number of priorities of the Action Plan. The deterioration in the overall political context, in particular as regards the Gaza conflict in December 2008-January 2009 and a lack of progress in 2009 on the Middle East Peace Process, affected the process of upgrading bilateral relations between the EU and Israel. The EU remains committed to upgrading relations with Israel but the situation was not conducive to the resumption of the process.
Political dialogue and governance, including CFSP
The EU and Israel pursued their cooperation in supporting initiatives tackling anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. In June 2009, a joint European-Israeli declaration was signed and the European Shoah Legacy Institute was established in Terezin (Czech Republic).
Little progress was made in the Middle East Peace Process. In late 2009, Israel announced a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank. This excludes however East Jerusalem, where settlement activity, house demolitions and evictions continue.
Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and strict limitations on the passage of people and goods to the Gaza Strip continued to adversely affect the situation of the Palestinians. Israeli military operations in Gaza have given rise to concerns of international humanitarian law violations.
The mandate of the EU Border Assistance Mission in Rafah (at the crossing point with Egypt) was extended until May 2010. The mission maintains its operational capability and remains prepared to redeploy its personnel as soon as conditions permit.
Since the end of the Gaza conflict, rockets and mortar shells have continued to be fired from Gaza. The Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit abducted by Hamas in June 2006 remains in captivity. The EU called for a complete halt to violence and for the release of the soldier.
Economic integration and trade
The export-oriented economy of Israel was one of the least affected by the global economic and financial crisis and among the earliest to stage a recovery. GDP growth in 2009 recorded an increase of around 0.5% compared to 4.1% in 2008.
As a result of the global slow-down, bilateral trade started to fall in 2008 and bottomed out in 2009 with a fall of over 20% compared to the previous year. The EU is Israel’s first trading partner (around 1/3 of overall Israel’s trade).
In November the EU and Israel signed an Agreement on Agricultural, Processed Agricultural and Fish and Fishery Products, (entered into force in January 2010). An EU-Israel agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industry Products was initialled in June. When it enters into force, this will represent Israel's first entry into the Single Market.
Significant progress was also made during Israel’s accession process to the OECD (started in 2007) in addressing the EU’s long-standing concerns in the area of intellectual property rights, especially for pharmaceuticals.
In March 2009 the new phyto-sanitary law for import of plants and plant products entered into force. Israel has also adopted new sanitary rules for meat imports.
In 2009, Israel ratified the UN convention against corruption. In international surveys on corruption perception Israel ranks similarly as EU Member States.
Sector cooperation - examples
Transport: Negotiations on a comprehensive aviation agreement continued. The agreement should provide for gradual market opening combined with a high-level of regulatory convergence. Sea Transport: The Haifa /Trieste axis was selected as one of the four pilot projects within the regional Motorways of the Sea programme and received additional technical assistance.
Energy: The trilateral cooperation between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the European Commission, re-launched in 2008, was stalled in the context of the Gaza conflict and absence of negotiations between the parties. The aim remains the establishment of a joint energy office and the facilitation of projects of common interest, such as the joint Israeli-Palestinian “Solar for Peace” initiative. In 2009, an EU funded study to support the “Solar for Peace” project was completed.
Research: Israel is the only ENP country that has been associated to the 7th Framework Programme since its beginning. By November 2009 nearly 700 Israeli research entities had been selected for funding. The performance of Israeli universities and research institutes was particularly strong – they received some 63% of the overall funding of € 243 million of grants going to Israeli participants.
Education: In 2007-2009, thanks to Erasmus Mundus grants, 251 Israeli students and academics could pursue studies in EU universities for up to three years.
EU–Israel – BACKGROUND
FACTS AND FIGURES
2000: EU- Israel Association Agreement entered into force
2005: EU-Israel Action Plan was approved. Its validity has been extended until June 2010.
2008: Launch of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM, reinforced Euro-Mediterranean Partnership).
2007-2010: The ENPI1 financial contribution for Israel is € 8 million, initially divided into four yearly € 2 million tranches. This was reduced in 2009 to € 1.5 million, reflecting problems in absorption capacity by the Israeli government
2011-2013: An indicative ENPI envelope of € 6 million announced by the Commission
More info at:
the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument