The enlargement of the European Union on 1May 2004 offers the opportunity for the EU and Israel to develop an increasingly close relationship.

Introduction

The enlargement of the European Union on 1st May 2004 has brought a historical shift for the Union in political, geographic and economic terms. The EU and Israel are now closer together than ever before and, as near neighbours, will reinforce their political and economic interdependence. Enlargement offers the opportunity for the EU and Israel to develop an increasingly close relationship, going beyond co-operation, to involve a significant measure of economic integration and a deepening of political co-operation. The European Union and Israel are determined to make use of this occasion to enhance their relations and to promote stability, security and well-being. The approach is founded on partnership, joint ownership and differentiation. It will contribute to the further development of our strategic partnership.

The European Neighbourhood Policy of the European Union sets ambitious objectives based on commitments to shared values and effective implementation of the political, economic, social and institutional actions agreed to in this Action Plan.

Israel and the EU will strive to intensify political, security, economic, scientific and cultural relations, and shared responsibility in conflict prevention and conflict resolution.

The Presidency conclusions of the Essen Council in December 1994 already stated that: “The European Council considers that Israel, on account of its high level of economic development, should enjoy special status in its relations with the EU on the basis of reciprocity and common interest …”. The EU has concluded an Association Agreement with Israel. The EU and Israel with the other Mediterranean partners have been working together in the framework of the Barcelona process. This AP will contribute to the fulfilment of the Essen declaration as we shape the future path and framework of the EU-Israel relations.

The EU and Israel share the common values of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law and basic freedoms. Both parties are committed to the struggle against all form of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. Historically and culturally, there exist great natural affinity and common heritage. Thus, we strive to build bridges and networks.

Israel has a functioning market economy and a well developed public administration and public services. This foundation makes Israel well placed to further develop its relationship with the EU including in the framework of the ENP.

The level of ambition of the EU/Israel relationship will depend on the degree of commitment to common values as well as the mutual interests and the capacity of each party to implement jointly agreed priorities. The pace of progress of the relationship will acknowledge fully the efforts and concrete achievements in meeting those commitments.

This Action Plan is a first step in this process. It covers a timeframe of three years. Its implementation will help fulfil the provisions in the Association Agreement (AA), build ties in new areas and will encourage and support Israel’s objectives for further integration into European economic and social structures. It will also build solid foundations for further economic integration based on the adoption and implementation of economic and trade-related rules and regulations with the potential to enhance trade, investment and growth. It will furthermore help to devise and implement policies and measures to promote economic growth, employment and social cohesion, to reduce poverty and to protect the environment, thereby contributing to the long-term objective of sustainable development.

An important goal of the Action Plan is to encourage cooperation on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the fight against terrorism, as well as prevention and resolution of conflicts in the region and beyond.

This Action Plan will also provide the opportunity and basis for increased legislative co-operation and exchange of views, with an aim to explore the possibility of approximation of laws in appropriate areas. Israel already participates in some Community programmes notably the Sixth Framework Programme, on a similar basis as the members of the European Economic Area (EEA).

As part of this Action Plan and in preparing for its first review, the EC will undertake an overall examination of all other Community programmes and bodies, with the objective of opening them to Israeli participation. This will be subject to mutual interest, and where required, to financial contributions by Israel as well as alignment of its legislation as required to participate in the relevant programme.

Israel and the EU will co-operate closely in implementing this Action Plan.