Some two months after Israeli airlines went on a brief strike to block the Israeli-EU “Open Skies” agreement, the two sides inked the accord in Luxembourg on Monday, paving the way for more direct flights between Israel and EU countries.

The European Union issued a statement saying that the deal was signed on the sidelines of the EU Transport Council meeting.

Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice- President responsible for mobility and transport, said: “Israel is a key partner for the EU and today’s agreement is very important for further strengthening the overall economic, trade and tourism relations between Israel and the EU. We expect to see more direct flights to and from Israel, lower prices, more jobs and economic benefits on both sides.”

When the agreement comes into effect in 2018, EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights to Israel from anywhere in the EU, and Israeli carriers will be able to operate flights to airports throughout the EU.

“The EU-Israel air transport market will be opened gradually over the next five years, so that by 2018, the market will be fully open with no restrictions on the number of flights,” the EU statement said.

The agreement is expected to encourage greater direct connections, which in turn could drive down prices. Under the agreement, according to the EU statement, Israel will “implement regulatory requirements and standards equivalent to EU aviation rules in areas such as aviation safety, environment, consumer protection, including passenger rights, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition issues and social aspects.”

The brief Israeli airline strike over the deal in late April ended when the Finance Ministry agreed to increase the share it pays of airline security costs from 70 to 97.5 percent.

The Israeli airlines went on strike saying they were concerned that Open Skies agreement would result in layoffs at the Israeli airlines.

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