On December 8, 2008, 27 European foreign ministers unanimously agreed to intensify their dialogue with Israel on diplomatic issues. Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni said that this is a meaningful achievement for Israeli diplomacy, opening a new chapter in Israel's diplomatic relations with EU states. It reflects the increasing cooperation between the parties, based on common values and similar world views.
The intensification of diplomatic dialogue is an important element in the process of upgrading the ties between Israel and Europe, which encompass a variety of areas such as trade, transportation, energy, culture, financial services, welfare, etc. This process began about a year and a half ago, at the initiative of FM Livni, who proposed that the EU states examine the subject from a practical standpoint. Since then, Israel has been negotiating with the EU on the details and nature of the upgrade in their relations, which was confirmed in principle when FM Livni attended the Association meeting in Luxemburg in June 2007.
This move will enable Israel to integrate more fully into the changing global constellation and to confront, as an equal partner, the challenges facing the international community today - the economic crisis, global terrorism, the threat of extremism, WMD proliferation, and the environment.
Ties with the European Union are a central pillar in Israel's foreign policy. In recent years, dozens of European foreign ministers and leaders have visited Israel, a sign of the depth and quality of relations. The EU is Israel's biggest trade partner, and the ties between them, which already extend into many diverse fields, will receive an additional boost when the upgrade in relations begins to show practical expression.
The diplomatic aspect of the upgrade process is wide-reaching and will reflect the special relations that have developed in recent years between Israel and the EU. The new elements agreed upon include holding ad hoc summit meetings with the participation of Israeli and European prime ministers; at least three meetings a year of Israeli and European foreign ministers; periodic meetings of Israeli and European foreign ministry director generals; ongoing professional dialogue on the subjects of the peace process, strategic issues, counterterrorism, international cooperation (MASHAV), organized crime, and others; intensified joint discussions on antisemitism and human rights; European help in integrating Israel into UN institutions; possible integration of Israeli experts in European peace forces; enhancement of the relations between the Knesset and European parliaments, and more.
Israel intends to use the intensified dialogue to convince Europe to increase the pressure on Hamas and the actions against the Iranian threat, while ensuring that Israel's strategic interests are protected in every diplomatic process.
Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs