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The recently established Israel-European Union Chamber of Commerce and Industry held its inauguration ceremony in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who attended the ceremony, welcomed the establishment of the new chamber and noted that Israel's experience is that such initiatives succeed when they are sincere and driven by a need to promote bilateral trade between the parties involved.
Besides Livni, the event was attended by the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany - as the Member State which holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Dr. Herald Kindermann, and ambassador and head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the State of Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal.
Kindermann, used his speech to address the crowd on the alarming news coming from Iran regarding the latest anti-Israeli remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"Iran has thus, once again, alienated itself from the international stage and given the world community further cause for mistrust," he said. The ambassador expressed the Presidency of the European Union's call on Iran to distance itself clearly from all threats made towards Israel, to unconditionally acknowledge Israel's right to exist and to act responsibly in the region.
The Delegation of the European Commission to Israel was officially opened in 1981 - as a diplomatic mission - and is responsible for managing official relations between Israel and the European Commission. The Head of Delegation is accredited as the official representative of the European Commission and is an ambassador. In the economic field, the Delegation is in regular contact with government ministries, dealing with issues that are of importance to the Commission. It also deals with a range of issues connected with EU-Israel agreements and provides professional information to Israeli organizations that wish to carry out economic activities in Europe. Additionally, the Delegation provides information on economic events that take place in Europe and are relevant to Israel, and reports to the Commission in Brussels about relevant economic events in Israel.
The aim of the new Chamber of Commerce is to establish and promote Israel's industrial capabilities in the EU market through business cooperation on all levels: technological, industrial and commercial. The chairman of the Federation of Israel Bi-National Chambers of Commerce & Industries, Amnon Dotan, made it clear that the new Chamber's mission is to introduce Israeli companies operating in many different fields of interest to the EU commercial sector, and to provide the EU businesses with information on the Israeli economy, development and market prospects they might require in order to establish strong, long-term business contacts with leading trade companies in Israel.
Chambers of Commerce are aimed at enhancing the economic relationship between the sides involved. The new Chamber role should be to stimulate and build on the Israel-EU trading relationship by providing guidance, advice and assistance to companies. The new Chamber would be wise to emphasize and to encourage Israeli firms to realize the potential of the European Union's common market.
Enhancing trade between the Israel and Europe is a mutual interest. Only last week, in his speech before the Knesset, President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, noted that the economic cooperation between Israel and the European Union has been steadily improving in recent years.
Israel's participation in the European neighborhood policy is reshaping and lending fresh impetus to the mutual relations. After all, Israel was the first partner country with which the European Union agreed an action plan under the auspices of that neighborhood policy, an action plan from which Israel might benefit. This is a sign of the trust that exists today between Israel and the European Union on trade and economics.
That trust could be strengthened further. The Association Council of the European Union, which held its most recent meeting at ministerial level in Brussels in March, endorsed the aim of privileged status for Israel under the neighborhood policy.
There are further signs of positive developments in the bilateral relations between Israel and the EU. "I regard it as particularly important for a successful future that Israel should be the first, and thus far only, non-European country to have been fully integrated into the EU's Framework Programs for Research and Development" proclaimed Poettering in his Knesset speech.
Through its participation in the Seventh Framework Program, Israel will become part of a strong European research area - a step entirely consistent with the action plan, which provides for Israel's involvement in European policies and programs to be steadily broadened.
Israel and the European Union are also forging close economic links: as the EU is an important trading partner with more than 30% of Israel's exports going to the EU and 40% of its imports coming from the Union; the trend is upward.
The European Parliament is advocating that the Israel-European Union's relations should be broadened to cover the services sector, which is important for Israel, and agriculture. It should also actively address the issues of energy security and cooperation in the development of renewable energies.
The author is the head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov Law firm.