The Minister of State responsible for European Affairs draws the honourable member’s attention to the fact that relations between the European Union and Israel are governed by an association agreement signed in 1995 (in force since 2000). It builds on the ties the European Union had established with Israel in 1975 through the signature of a cooperation agreement. This agreement provides for periodical political meetings and meetings of sector-related sub-committees. The last European Union-Israel Association Council took place on 15 June 2009.
Moreover, within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, a joint European Union-Israel Action Plan was adopted in April 2005.
This Action Plan expired at the end of March 2009 but was provisionally renewed until June 2010 by an exchange of letters between the Commissioner for External Relations and Israeli Foreign Minister.
In a statement of 16 June 2008 at the eighth European Union-Israel Association Council (held in Luxembourg), the 27 European Union Member States formally agreed to Israel’s request to develop her relations with the European Union beyond the parameters set by the Association Agreement and current Action Plan. The two parties agreed that this upgrading of bilateral relations should be reflected by a stronger political dialogue, a more sustained effort to harmonize regulations, increased sectoral cooperation in areas of Community competence (transport, environment, energy, etc.) and Israel’s direct participation in certain Community programmes.
During her presidency of the European Union Council (second half of 2008), France put a great deal of effort into taking forward the political dialogue between Israel and the European Union. France remains committed to the principle of upgrading the relationship between the European Union and Israel, decided on by all Member States in both parties’ interests. President Sarkozy has, moreover, made several statements to this effect.
The renewal of the European Commission and entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty could inject new impetus into the relations between the European Union and Israel. In addition, adoption of the next Action Plan by the end of June should strengthen the ties uniting the European Union and Israel.
Nevertheless, for France, as for her European partners, this upgrading cannot be envisaged without taking into account the regional context, particularly the peace process in the Middle East. This was set out in the conclusions of the European Council of 8 December 2008, adopted under French presidency, and reiterated by the Europeans at the European Union-Israel Association Council meeting on 15 June 2009.
The aim remains the creation of a viable, modern, independent and democratic Palestinian State, living in peace alongside the State of Israel, within secure and recognized borders on the basis of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and Arab Peace Initiative. With this in view, with her European partners, France is arguing in favour of a rapid relaunch of the peace negotiations. She repeated this during the President Abbas’s visit to Paris on 22 February. On this occasion, President Sarkozy signalled the importance of the confidence-building measures which the parties could adopt to encourage a climate conducive to the negotiations. In this respect, he firmly condemned the assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai, in January this year. In Brussels, the same day, the Foreign Affairs Council relayed this concern by stressing that such an act could not possibly contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East and condemning the use, by the perpetrators of the assassination, of fake European Union Member States’ passports./.