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Euro-Israeli relations
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Relations between Israel and the European Union are generally positive.

Contents

European Union's relations with Israel

Currently, the EU-Israel Association Agreement[1] forms the legal basis governing relations between Israel and the European Union, modelled on the network of Euro-Mediterranean Agreements between the Union and its partners in the southern flank of the Mediterranean Sea.

The agreement with Israel incorporates free trade arrangements for industrial goods, concessionary arrangements for trade in agricultural products (a new agreement here entered into force in 2004), and opens up the prospect for greater liberalisation of trade in services, and farm goods, from 2005. The Association Agreement was signed in Brussels on 20 November 1995, and entered into force on 1 June 2000[2], following ratification by the 15 Member States' Parliaments, the European Parliament and the Knesset. It replaces the earlier Co-operation Agreement of 1975.

The Association Agreement established two main bodies for the EU-Israel dialogue. The EU-Israel Association Council (held at ministerial level) and the EU-Israel Association Committee (held at the level of senior officials) meet at regular intervals, to discuss political and economic issues as well as bilateral or regional co-operation.

Upgrading the Association Agreement is currently on hold following a vote in the European Parliament to postpone the issue in December 2008, due to continuing settlement-building and the blockade of the Gaza Strip[3]. UK MPs Clare Short and Derek Wyatt have suggested suspending or terminating the agreement in the light of Israel’s "violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories".[4]

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Support to Israel from the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership

Israel, because of its high national income, is not eligible for bilateral funding under MEDA. It has however been involved in a wide variety of Euro-Mediterranean regional programmes funded under MEDA:

  • Young Israelis participate in youth exchange programmes with their European and Mediterranean counterparts under the Euro-Med Youth Action Programme.
  • Israeli filmmakers have benefited from funding and training under the Euro-Med Audiovisual Programme.
  • Israeli universities participate in the FEMISE forum of economic institutes while chambers of commerce and employers associations have participated in programmes like UNIMED and ArchiMedes.
  • Institutes like the Israel Antiquities Authority participate in Euromed Cultural Heritage.

Co-operation

Agreements on Scientific and Technical Co-operation between the European Union and the State of Israel.

Israel was the first non-European country to be associated to the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development (RTD). Israel's special status is the result of its high level of scientific and research capability and the dense network of longstanding relations in scientific and technical co-operation between Israel and the EU.

The European Commission signed an agreement with Israel in July 2004 allowing for its participation in the EU’s Galileo project for a Global Navigation Satellite System.

Trade relations

Trade between the EU and Israel is conducted on the basis of the Association Agreement. The European Union is Israel’s major trading partner[5]. In 2004 the total volume of bilateral trade (excluding diamonds) came to over €15 billion. 33% of Israel’s exports went to the EU and almost 40% of its imports came from the EU.

Total EU (27 Member States) trade with Israel rose from €19.4 billion in 2003 to 21.36 in 2004. EU exports to Israel reached €12.75 billion in 2004, while imports from Israel were €8.6 billion. The trade deficit with Israel was €4.15 billion in the EU’s favour in 2004.

Under the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement, the EU of 25 Member States and Israel have free trade in industrial products. The two sides have granted each other significant trade concessions for certain agricultural products, in the form of tariff reduction or elimination, either within quotas or for unlimited quantities.

Article 2 of the Association Agreement states: "Relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for 'human rights and democratic principles', which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement."

In 2009, a German court solicited the European Court of Justice for a binding ruling on whether goods manufactured in Israeli settlements in occupied territories should fall under duty exemptions in the Association Agreement. The German government has stated as its position that that there can be no exemption from customs duty for "goods from the occupied territories".[6]. An advocate general for the Court ruled in October 2009 that goods originating from the settlements should not be eligible for customs breaks.[7]

Support to the Middle East peace process

The European Union attaches great importance to the finding of a just and final settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict and supports initiatives to further the peace process, through the role of the Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process (Tony Blair), through its involvement in support of the Quartet (EU, US, Russia, UN), its programmes of humanitarian and other assistance for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, by virtue of the commitments entered into by Israel, the PA and the EU in the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plans, as well as through programmes for civil society and people to people contacts.[8]

Opposition to links with Israel in EU

European Union foreign ministers welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conditional endorsement of a future Palestinian state in June 2009, but said it was not enough to raise EU-Israel ties to a higher level and questioned the conditions set for backing a Palestinian state and Netanyahu's defence of Jewish settlements.

The EU wants a firm commitment from Israel to seek a two-state peace accord. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said "We must say quite clearly today there can only be talk of an upgrade when the peace process is on its way, and for that we need a few steps more" and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said Netanyahu's moves were not sufficient for the EU to upgrade ties with Israel. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said it was "not sufficient" and "stopping of the settlements is essential". Sweden took over the EU presidency in July 2009, but its Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Netanyahu's words were good but "only a first step".[9]

Further readings

  • Ahlswede, Stefan (2009). Israel's European Policy after the Cold War. Duesseldorf Series on International Law and Policy. Baden-Baden: Nomos. ISBN 978-3-8329-4817-7.  

External links

Notes and references


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