The EU’s not-so-hostile relations with Israel

EU-Israel flagDespite the EU’s intermittent cold neutrality, if not hostility, towards Israel, it can also be happy to warm up relations with Israel when it suits them – or when anti-Israel sentiment goes too far even for them.

For example, the EU denounced Richard Falk’s anti-Israel report at the UN HRC as being biased.

The European Union took a strong stand against United Nations Human Rights Council special rapporteur Richard Falk, denouncing as inaccurate and biased a report against Israel which he delivered to the body in Geneva on Monday.

“The EU continues to regret the unbalanced mandate of the Special Rapporteur and is also concerned that parts of the report include political considerations.

In the past, the EU emphasized that future reports should be based on a more factual and legal analysis, and we regret to see no genuine progress in that direction,” it said.

“The council needs to be provided with accurate, factual information and solid allegations to fulfill its role and address the human rights situation in occupied Palestinian territory,” the EU said.

When even the EU denounces you, you should know you’re in very hot water.

Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline

In the economic scene, the EU is keen to tap into Israel’s gas supply via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (h/t Honest Reporting):

The European Union, which is trying to reduce its dependence on Russia for gas and diversify its supply sources, is eyeing Israel as a likely alternative and has proposed linking it to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, Israeli industry sources said Monday.

[...]

The proposal would enable Israel to join the European pipeline network, eliminating the need to build a costly LNG facility. An LNG terminal is estimated to cost between $7 billion to $10 billion while a pipeline to the European network can be built for $2 billion-$3 billion.

Israel’s decision depends on whether the government approves gas exports. A decision is due to be taken in the coming weeks as the government continues to grapple with divergent views on the issue.

Minister for Energy and Water Silvan Shalom has recommended that Israel set aside 530 billion cubic meters to 540 Bcm of gas for the domestic market through 2040. That will reduce the amount available for export to around 360-400 Bcm. In August last year, a government-appointed committee recommended that 500 Bcm be approved for export market through 2040.

Assuming Israel permits enough natural gas exports, this pipeline sounds like a win-win situation for both the EU and Israel.

Staying in the business field, Israel signed an “open skies” agreement with the EU this week which will hopefully bring down air fares for Israelis amongst other benefits:

The gradual implementation of the agreement is designed to provide time for aviation companies to prepare themselves for more competitive business. Each year, until the completion of the contract, each European destination will have seven additional weekly flights from and to Israel. In a small number of central European airports that typically serve as connection hubs, where extensive traffic to and from Israel already exists, only three weekly flights will be added each year. This could grant the Israeli airlines some degree of protection from loss of business during the adjustment period.

Upon implementation of the agreement, an aviation industry exemption from the Antitrust Law will be expanded to eliminate the requirement of Israeli carriers to submit in advance code-sharing agreements with foreign aviation companies participating in the “open skies” deal (relating to flights to both the U.S. and Europe).

Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz said on Monday that “the agreement will make Israel an integral part of the EU in relation to the aviation industry. I expect to see significant drops in the cost of flights for the benefit of all Israeli citizens.”

According to Katz, the agreement will clear the way for additional flight destinations, increase the influx of tourists and provide thousands of new jobs for Israelis.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, who supported the deal throughout and worked to finalize it, said that “this is a vital move, but the government must also find a way to ensure the stability of Israeli carriers within the framework of the agreement.”

A spokesman for the Israel Hotel Association said the deal would “contribute to healthy competition in the skies and to increase tourism in Israel.”

A spokesman for Israir, Israel’s third-largest airline, said that “in light of the regulation process over the past few months, Israir has been preparing itself for an ‘open skies’ policy. Israir believes that the company will be able to leverage its relative advantages with the onset of the new regulatory changes.”

Spokesmen for El Al and Arkia, the two leading Israeli airlines, said the companies were reviewing the agreement.

The agreement wasn’t all plane plain sailing at first but clearer minds won the day:

The agreement was ratified by Israel’s cabinet in April, setting off a strike by El Al and other Israeli airlines. El Al, Israir, and Arkia have all expressed fears that they would not be able to compete with the low-cost European carriers that the deal would require Israel to accommodate at Ben Gurion Airport.

The strike ended only when the government agreed to pay for the lion’s share of security costs borne by the airlines, a back-end “subsidy” that the government and airlines hope will help even the playing field with the European carriers.

In order to enable the Israeli airlines to adjust to the new situation, the agreement will be implemented over five years. After that time, it is expected that there will be much more air traffic between Israel and Europe – and lower ticket prices, resulting from the increased competition. Commenting on the agreement after it was ratified earlier this year, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that the agreement was “good for Israel, and will lead to the lowering of prices and increased competition. It will not cause a loss of jobs, as the airlines here fear, but rather the the opposite.”

If only Israel’s political ties with the EU could be as warm as its economic ties.

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3 Responses to The EU’s not-so-hostile relations with Israel

  1. Andrea says:

    It would be interesting to know position of EU among Israel commercial partners top list – I would guess she is the first and then in detail which countries are on the top -and I would guess France and Germany . Curious thing is that by reading newspapers in Europe ( the ones on the left) and in Israel ( the ones on the right ) situation looks different : criticism everywhere.
    To add some hilarious aspect I would add that most profitable trade is linked to…war. Israel technology for EU airplanes, EU airplanes for IDF training and secret services in good agreement.
    With enemies like these……who needs friends? Common people is more interested in Bar Rafaeli than Bibi, IDF is on European newspapers because of female soldiers images of naked glutes and I am also planning to spend some days on Israeli beaches to assess how thinghs really are – forget about disputed territories.
    Once in a while EU and Israelis could act like friends or tolerant neighbours

    • anneinpt says:

      Your guess is correct. I think the EU is Israel’s main trading partner but although Israel has a very extensive defense industry, it’s not the only major industry. There is all kinds of hi-tech (Google bought Waze just this week), pharmaceuticals, biomed, and now natural gas. Let’s not forget diamonds either.

      As you said, and as I noticed, the reporting on Israel-EU relations makes things out to be worse than they really are on the ground.

      And if you really are planning to hang out on Israel’s beaches, drop me a line. Perhaps we can meet. ;-)

  2. Pingback: Good News Friday | Anne's Opinions

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