Israel expects upgraded EU ties

The tighter bonds are likely to be finalized when the EU-Israel Association Council convenes on Monday.

livni 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
livni 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Foreign Ministry expects the European Union to boost its ties with Israel at a joint meeting in Luxembourg on Monday, despite Palestinian efforts to stymie the move. "We expect the EU to approve Israel's request for an upgrade in the relationship," Foreign Ministry spokesman Aryeh Mekel told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. The tighter bonds are likely to be finalized when the ministerial-level EU-Israel Association Council convenes on the margins of the EU Council meeting, later on Monday. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to head to Luxembourg for the talks. To try to thwart the deepening relationship between Israel and the EU, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad sent a letter to EU ministers and heads of state asking that Israel's request be denied based on its treatment of the Palestinians. The EU Parliamentary Working Group on the Middle East has also spoken out against upgrading ties with Israel. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the EU was likely to reject a wide-range upgrade at this time. Mekel denied the report. "It's not true," he told the Post. "We are already involved in a wide array of activities with the EU and these benefit both sides." The upgrade is so far along that the 27 member states are discussing the wording of the document that would codify it, he said. "When there are 27 countries it is not easy for them to reach a common text." Europe is Israel's largest trading partner, and the EU's cooperation level with Israel is the highest with any non-EU member state. Still, Israel seeks a closer union. It has asked for significant involvement in finance, education, environment, youth, development, law enforcement, security cooperation and scientific research. Israel and the EU have also looked at holding a joint summit of heads of state and government. According to the EU Embassy in Israel and the European Commission in Brussels, the process to upgrade ties is pushing forward. European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said "it was a little bit premature" for Reuters to report that the EU planned to deny Israel's request. There is a debate now among member states on this issue, he said. The EU member states are reviewing the union's relationship with Israel, not only in the bilateral context but also within the wider contest of what is happening in the Middle East, he added. At the end of the process, Altafaj said, "It is mainly the members states" who would decide whether to boost ties with Israel.