Jerusalem, November 17, 2003

Israel Country of First Priority for Upgrade in Relations with Europe
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Following discussions today between Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Silvan Shalom and Gunter Verheugen, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Israel was listed as country of first priority for an upgrade in relations with Europe. The leaders met today during at the EU-Israel Association Council Meeting in Brussels.

Commissioner Verheugen said that he plans to travel to Israel during the first part of 2004. He also said that by mid-December he will send a professional team to Israel to begin official discussions. FM Shalom established a professional team to coordinate Israeli inter-agency issues. EU-Israeli discussions will focus on economic cooperation, improving Israel’s ability to compete in European markets, strengthening trade relations, R&D, environmental issues and immigration issues.