EU votes to formalize 'Open Skies' agreement with Israel

A total of 437 members of the European Parliament voted in favor of approving the agreement, and 102 opposed the motion.

MEPs take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg (photo credit: REUTERS)
MEPs take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The European Parliament voted to formalize its “Open Skies” agreement with Israel late Wednesday, granting final approval to a temporary aviation agreement reached between the European Union and the State of Israel in 2013.
Applied administratively by European and Israeli authorities to date, the Euro-Mediterranean Aviation Agreement between the EU and Israel contains a regulatory framework for aviation regulations between the parties, including fair competition, respect of labor standards, protection of passenger rights and environmental safeguard measures.
A total of 437 members of the European Parliament voted in favor of giving consent to the agreement, while 102 opposed the motion. The agreement has been ratified domestically by all 27 EU member states.
Since the initial agreement was signed seven years ago, the number of routes between Israel and European destinations has increased significantly, prices have declined and the number of European tourists arriving in Israel has soared.
“Approval of the agreement is an important expression of the relationship between Israel and Europe, especially in the fields of trade, research and development and tourism,” said Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
“Especially today, when the State of Israel faces an economic crisis resulting from the coronavirus and ahead of the renewal of aviation links, this is significant news that will ensure the restoration of the tourism and aviation sectors.”
The renewal of the agreement was thought to have been somewhat at risk due to European opposition to Israel possibly extending its laws to parts of the West Bank this summer.
Though the EU’s executive already approved the agreement, some European diplomats thought it would have a more difficult time getting through parliament. However, the vote took place before the Israeli government made any decisions regarding sovereignty.
In a statement, the Delegation of the European Union to the State of Israel clarified that the vote “does not prejudge the EU position on future political developments in Israel.
“The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and act accordingly,” said the delegation.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, an EU source explained: “The EU’s approach is that nothing has happened yet so there is no reason to take a different direction. Though it is plain for everyone to see what is to lose.”
Demonstrating the scope of tourism facilitated by the agreement, six of Israel’s 10 leading source countries for incoming visitors in 2019 were EU member states: France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Poland and Romania.
According to a report published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last year, air connectivity between Israel and European destinations increased by some 48% between 2013 and 2018.
“Ratifying the agreement is very important, especially in light of the fact that Europe is the largest market for international passenger traffic to and from Israel,” Kobi Zussman, Israel country manager of IATA, told the Post.
“We are right now at a very critical point in time for Israeli aviation due to the COVID-19 crisis. Now, what is required from the state is a clear program for opening the skies, in line with international best practices. In that respect, Europe will play a major part in the recovery of Israeli aviation.”