Israeli Cooperation with Europe
Similar systems of government and shared social values, as well as the long and sometimes tragic history of Jewish communities in Europe, form the foundation of relations between Israel and the European countries. Each bilateral relationship is expressed in a wide range of economic, cultural, scientific, technological and political activities, as well as by ongoing dialogues maintained with heads of state, ministers, parliamentarians and public figures through frequent reciprocal visits.
Since economic relations with neighboring Arab countries are just beginning, Western Europe is Israel's most natural trading partner. The establishment of a free trade zone (1975) with the European Community (EC) led to a significant increase in exports to Europe from 1975 to 1996, and an even greater increase in EC exports to Israel. This growth in trade has been accelerated by the development of close business connections between entrepreneurs and investors and the setting up of joint ventures, as well as by efforts to strengthen economic ties with the member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The Israel-EU Association Agreement, signed in 1995, came into force in June 2000, allowing for heightened political dialogue, as well as closer economic relations. Earlier in 2000, the EU-Israel Forum was established with the aim of increasing understanding and cooperation between the parties. The flow of tourists between Europe and Israel has established an ever-deepening fabric of personal relationships and mutual awareness.
The Western European countries support the effort to resolve the Arab-Israel conflict through the ongoing peace process.
Eastern Europe and Euro-Asia
Relations between Israel and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, , which were renewed as soon these countries restored their democracies, are becoming increasingly close, especially in economic matters, culture, tourism and international cooperation activities. Economic agreements with these countries are of importance, given that many of them are candidates for future membership in the European Union and NATO.
As these countries had been the center of world Jewry before World War II, the memory of the Holocaust is a significant factor in relations with them. Issues being dealt with include restoration of nationalized Jewish public and private property to their owners or legal heirs and recognition of the Righteous Persons who risked their lives to save Jews during the Nazi era.
Israel's relations with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have gained momentum in recent years, as evidenced by Russia's and the Ukraine's participation in aspects of the Middle East peace process. Relations with the Muslim countries of the CIS (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan) as well as with Georgia and Armenia, have been established. The leaders of several of these countries have visited Israel and signed mutual cooperation agreements, and economic ties are becoming closer.
Parallel to diplomatic relations, special relations are also emerging with Israel's large community of recent immigrants from former Soviet countries, leading to the establishment of enhanced cultural and economic ties. At the same time, Jewish immigration to Israel is continuing.
First contacts have been made with Afghanistan - the only state in this region that does not maintain diplomatic relations with Israel.
Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs