Overview of 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
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).
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
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 regard as illegal settlements in Israel. Pursuant to the resolution, the EU has stopped recognizing the authority of Israeli veterinary inspectors who inspect the poultry and dairy products for export because Israel does not label or distinguish between poultry and dairy products that come from settlements and those originating from within Israel.
The European Union announced a comprehensive ban on dairy products produced in West Bank settlements on October 9 2014, prompting the Israeli Agriculture Ministry to inform dairy producers that they would no longer be able to export anything produced beyond the 1949 armistice line to Europe. The ban is expected to have little implications on the Israeli economy, since dairy products from settlements are mostly for local consumption and only make up a tiny portion of the total export of Israeli dairy products to the EU.
European Union nations voted in November 2015 to label all products produced on Israeli land seized following the 1967 War as “made in settlements,” a move that prompted harsh criticism from Israeli officials. , “The EU decision is hypocritical and constitutes a double standard,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It singles out Israel and not the 200 other conflicts around the world. The EU has decided to label only Israel, and we are not prepared to accept the fact that Europe is labeling the side that is being attacked by terrorism. The Israeli economy is strong and will withstand this; those who will be hurt will be those Palestinians who work in Israeli factories. The EU should be ashamed.” To read the letter penned by the European Union nations expressing their support for the labelling of these goods, please click here. During the week following the E.U.'s decision to label these products, the Israeli Foreign Ministry suspended all Diplomatic contacts with European Union on matters related to Israeli-Palestinian peace. A statement released by the Israeli Foreign Ministry on November 29, 2015, clarified that Israel would continue diplomatic relations with individual countries, but the ban applies to E.U. institutions and officials. A European Union spokesperson responded, stating that they would continue to work towards peace in the Middle East with the quartet and their other partners, despite being shut out by Israel.
The President of German Parliament came out during the week following the EU's decision, stating that Germany did not support the decision to label the goods, and in fact rejected the idea when it was presented. German Bundestag (Parliament) President Norbert Lammert said during a joint press conference with Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, that “Germany can imagine a better law, if it were to apply to everyone, on principle, to all occupied land. Because it's specifically against Israel, I repeat that it is unnecessary and not very smart.” The Czech and Hungarian governments rejected the EU decision as well, with the Czech parliament calling on the government to ignore the labelling rules.
Europe and Euro-Asia
Relations between Israel and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe,
, which were renewed when democratic governments were elected, are becoming
increasingly close, especially in economic
matters, culture, tourism and international
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. 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,
while expanding economic ties.
Israel has signed free trade agreements
with the Czech
Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia.
Israel has limited contacts in Afghanistan - the only state in this region that does not maintain diplomatic relations
Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Sobelman, Batsheva. “A diplomatic brouhaha erupts over 'Made in Israel' labels,” LA Times (November 30, 2015);
Shamee, Maureen. “Germany rejects EU's labeling of Israeli settlement products, says Bundestag President,” European Jewish Press, (December 3, 2015);
“Czech parliament rejects labelling goods from Israeli settlements,”YNet News (December 17, 2015).