Join Our Mailing List

Sponsor Us!

Israel International Relations:
Overview of Cooperation with Europe

International Relations: Table of Contents | Greece-Israel | China-Israel

Print Friendly and PDF

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.

Western Europe

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.

Europe has long held economic relations with Israel, and this includes the import of Israeli goods and export of European goods.  In February 2014 the European Union adopted a resolution that affects the import of chicken and milk products from what they see as illegal settlements in Israel. Pursuant to the resolution, the EU has stopped recognizing the authority of Israeli vetrinary inspectors who inspect the poultry and dairy products for export.  This is due to the fact that Israel does not label or distinguish between the origins of poultry and dairy products, as to which ones come from settlements and which ones come from what the EU deems as legitimate Israeli territory. 

The European Union imposed a comprehensive ban on dairy products produced in West Bank settlements on October 9 2014, to go into effect begining January 2015.  The Israeli Agriculture Ministry released a statement to dairy factories across the country on October 7 informing them that they would no longer be able to export dairy products produced over the 1967 border to Europe.  The financial implications of this ban are minimal due to the fact that the dairy industry in the settlements is mostly for local consumption and only makes up a tiny portion of the total export of Israeli dairy products to European Union countries.

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.

Israel has signed free trade agreements with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.

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.

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Back to Top