A series of special events will be taking place this week (3-7 June 2007) devoted to enhancing Israeli-EU relations.

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

A series of special events will be taking place this week (3-7 June 2007) devoted to enhancing Israeli-EU relations – some on the government level, others involving civilian and business sectors on both sides.

Where are Israeli-EU relations headed? Israeli and European senior officials discussed this question in a "think tank" on Sunday (3 June), looking at possible models (EFTA, Switzerland, etc.) with the goal of finding ways to enhance Israel-EU relations. The meeting was the initiative of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as agreed with Foreign Minister Steinmeier of the German rotating EU Presidency and EU External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner at the last Association Council meeting held in Brussels in March 2007.

The forum was led, on the Israeli side, by Mr. Yossi Gal, Senior Deputy Director General (Political), Mr. Raphael Barak, Deputy Director General for Europe, and Israel’s ambassador to EU institutions, Mr. Ran Curiel. On the European side were Dr. Horst Freitag, Deputy Director General for the Middle East at the German Foreign Ministry, and Mr. Hugues Mingarelli, Middle East Director of the European Commission.

Directors general and other senior Israeli officials participated in the events, among them the Governor of the Bank of Israel, the Director General of the Ministry of Infrastructures, the Assistant Attorney General, the Director General of the Council for Higher Education, and officials from the Ministries of Industry and Trade, Environmental Protection, Finance, Transportation and the National Security Council.

The Israeli delegates presented broad overviews of activities in various fields, and possibilities were discussed for upgrading relations beyond the current cooperation framework. The forum will submit a written report by the end of the year to the European and Israeli foreign ministers with recommendations and practical suggestions.

The Association Council is convening today (4 June) for its annual meeting of senior officials responsible for Israel-EU bilateral relations on a daily basis. The subjects on the agenda include renewal of the mandate for European observers at Rafah crossing, and the Israeli demand that the EU continue to refrain from transferring funds directly to the PA unity government headed by Hamas. Other subjects to be raised relate to trade, culture, R&D, legal issues, and others.

Non-governmental topics include the launching of an Israeli-EU Chamber of Commerce on 5 June that will act as an umbrella organization for European national Chambers of Commerce. Members of the European Union manage their foreign trade according to rules and regulations coming from Brussels, the capital of the EU. For this reason, Israeli trade can be promoted only through increased coordination with EU institutions. The Chamber of Commerce will be headed by Gad Proper and will be officially launched in the presence of Foreign Minister Livni and European senior officials.

A B2B (Business to Business) dialogue will also take place between Israeli and European Union business leaders prior to its launching in November in the presence of the Vice-President of the Commission, Günter Warheigen. This informal dialogue is another step in the promotion of economic and political relations between Israel and the EU, and its recommendations will be submitted to decision-makers in Israel and in Europe.