Israel’s Energy and Water Ministry and the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) signed a memorandum of understanding on Monday to deepen their cooperation on energy and water desalination.

The agreement is in part a result of the EU-Israel European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan of 2005, and will focus on ensuring a sustainable supply of energy and water in line with international environmental standards, according to a statement from the EU.

The partners will strive for more efficient and sustainable technologies and will also explore the link between energy and water, the statement said.

With an initial duration of five years, the memorandum was signed in Jerusalem by JRC director- general Dominique Ristori and Energy and Water Ministry director- general Shaul Zemach. It enables the joint use of research, scientific information, staff and equipment, the EU said.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said the agreement represented “a very important milestone in the progression of development between us.”

“Israel is a technological country. Europe is our main trading partner. Europe is an advanced society; we’re an advanced society. The more we cooperate, the more it will benefit our societies,” he continued.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is on a a twoday visit to Israel said that scientific research and technology was one of the most important fields in which Israel and the EU cooperate.

“I’m looking forward to deepening our good cooperation between Israel and the European Union,” he added.

The agreement was originally formulated during a meeting between Ristori and Zemach in February 2011, and continued to take shape with a meeting between Ristori and Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau at this year’s World Water Forum in Marseilles, according to the ministry.

The energy elements of the agreement will focus on renewables, smart grids, energy efficiency and oil fuel alternatives, while the water portion will focus on desalination, an area in which the EU credited Israel as possessing “strong scientific expertise.”

An initial meeting between Israel’s leading research groups and the JRC’s director of laboratories for energy and transportation will occur on September 27.

The first group of projects will focus on oil alternatives for transportation, and will explore the integration process between the power grid and electric vehicles, according to the ministry. A project working on the standardization of electrical vehicle integration will begin in early 2013, with an energy efficiency and conservation project to follow, the ministry said.

In order to assess the progress of the cooperative projects, review meetings will take place biannually, with locations alternating between Israel and Europe.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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