European and Israeli officials have signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, allowing carriers to fly between the countries on a limited basis.
Current restrictions on flights will be eased over the next five years, and by 2018, both will enjoy unfettered access to each other's airports.
“Israel is a key partner for the EU, and today's agreement is very important for further strengthening the overall economic, trade and tourism relations between Israel and the EU. We expect to see more direct flights to and from Israel, lower prices, more jobs and economic benefits on both sides,” the European Commission’s Siim Kallas said in a statement.
The agreement will lead to the establishment of common aviation rules, and Israeli carriers will be subject to the European Union’s safety, environmental, air traffic management and competition regulations. Officials said the gradual opening of the market will help encourage a large number of direct flights between Europe and Israel.
The EU-wide agreement will replace bilateral contracts between Israel and individual member states. Officials see the deal as one more step toward developing a Common Aviation Area between the European Union and neighboring countries. The common area, which officials hope will be established by 2015, is a key target in Europe’s 2012 external aviation policy. - Jon Ross