The European Union and Israel share a long common history, marked by growing interdependence and cooperation. Both share the same values of democracy, a respect for freedom and rule of law and are committed to an open international economic system based on market principles. Israeli political, industrial, commercial and scientific leaders maintain close links to Europe. Over five decades of trade, cultural exchanges, political cooperation and a developed system of agreements have cemented these relations.
The legal framework for EU- Israel relations is provided by the The EU-Israel "Association Agreement" [548 KB] signed in Brussels, on 20 November 1995, and following ratification by the 15 member States parliaments, the European Parliament and the Knesset, entered force on 1 June, 2000. It replaces the earlier Cooperation Agreement of 1975. The main features of the EU-Israel Association Agreement include provisions on regular political dialogue, on freedom of establishment and liberalisation of services, the free movement of capital and competition rules, the strengthening of economic cooperation and cooperation on social matters.
Israel is among the immediate neighbours of the EU included in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) which offers the perspective of moving beyond cooperation to a significant degree of integration through a stake in the EU's Internal Market and the possibility for Israel to participate progressively in key aspects of EU policies and programmes. Israel was among the first wave of countries to agree on an ENP Action Plan [88 KB] with the EU. This entered into force in April 2005.
The ENP Action Plan set out in more detail than the earlier EU-Israel Association Agreement [548 KB] a comprehensive set of jointly developed priorities with a programme of specific activities to which both sides are committed. The areas for greater cooperation under the Action Plan include : upgrading political cooperation; promoting peace in the Middle East; approximating Israeli legislation to that of the EU as a way of opening the EU's Internal Market to Israel; pursuing greater liberalization of trade, services and agriculture; the fight against organized crime; cooperation in transport, energy and communications; closer links in science and technology and people-to-people contacts in education, culture and civil society.
On 17 July 2007 Israel and the European Union signed their 4th agreement for scientific and technical cooperation giving Israeli researchers, universities and companies full access to the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
On 4 November 2009 the EU and Israel signed the new agreement concerning reciprocal liberalisation measures on agricultural products, processed agricultural products and fish and fishery products. It entered into force on 1 January 2010.
The EU and Israel signed on 6 May 2010 an Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of industrial products (ACAA) which entered into force on 19.1.2013. The Agreement contains an annex on good manufacturing practices for pharmaceutical products which will allow for EU-certified pharmaceuticals to be placed on Israel's market and vice-versa, without additional certification.
In June 2013, Israel and the EU signed an open skies agreement, which will come into effect in 2018. According to the agreement, EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights to Israel from anywhere in the EU, and Israeli carriers will be able to operate flights to airports throughout the EU.
The EU is Israel's largest import and export market and accounts for about a third of Israel's total trade. Israel is one of EU's leading trading partners in the Mediterranean area.