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Brussels, 24 July 2012
Statement of Commissioner Štefan Füle at the press conference after the EU-Israel Association Council
"First of all let me repeat also on behalf of the European Commission that we strongly condemn the terrorist attack on Israeli citizens in Bulgaria last week.
At this Association Council we have reviewed the main common achievements of the past year: ranging from trade relations, to agriculture, Israel’s participation in the EU internal market, transport and social affairs, besides of course our strong on-going partnership on scientific research and development.
The concrete achievements over the past year and the scale of specific proposed activities are a clear indication of how strong and vibrant our relations are, despite some occasional difficulties.
Our trade relations are thriving; Israel is among the EU’s biggest trading partners in the region.
We discussed how best to further develop our cooperation not only in trade. The EU is committed to cooperate with Israel in policy areas of the current Action Plan that remain to date unexploited. We have drawn up a list of activities, which will give us a lot of work in the immediate future. Here, we are talking about 60 concrete actions in 15 fields. We will continue technical discussions, whenever necessary, in order to identify areas for future potential co-operation.
We have also discussed some domestic developments in the area of human rights and democratic freedoms in Israel, since our renewed neighbourhood policy focuses not only on mutual interests but also very much on values.
Israel is no doubt prime example of democracy in the region, nevertheless some of our concerns include the situation of the Arab minority and the Bedouin community. And also we keep stressing the important role of the civil society and NGO sector and the need to refrain from actions which may complicate the space in which civil society organisations operate or which could curtail freedom of association and freedom of speech.
Overall, we had good meeting today and I reiterated, on behalf of the Commission, our commitment to proceed further with bilateral cooperation, which will no doubt benefit from our joint work on fully exhausting the current Action Plan."