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A closer look at Israel’s relationship with the EU

Writing for The Jerusalem Post, Dr. Maya Sion-Tzidkiyahu discusses the idea raised by French President Emmanuel Macron to establish a “European Political Community”, referring to a gathering of 12 countries surrounding the European Union: eight candidate member states (five in the Western Balkans, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia), three that are not interested to join the EU (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland), and the UK, which has left. Macron did not mention Turkey.

Sion-Tzidkiyahu is the director of the Israel-Europe program at the Mitvim Institute, and a lecturer at the European Forum of the Hebrew University and the EU studies program at Tel Aviv University. She explains:

“For the candidates, this political community would be a kind of “waiting room” during the protracted and difficult process involved in joining the EU. (…)

The proposal, community leaders would meet several times a year (at various levels) to make decisions. Macron noted that the community would engage in political and security cooperation (not in defense), and in the fields of energy, transportation, investments, infrastructure and the movement of people, with an emphasis on youth. Its goal would be to contribute to the security, stability and prosperity of its members.”

The author expores the question whether Israel may somehow engage with this, noting:

“Israel and the EU have extensive ties in the fields of economics, research and innovation, aviation and tourism, agriculture, regulation and standardization and more. The energy sector has also been added to the list with last week’s signing of a memorandum of understanding on gas exports from Israel via Egypt to the EU. The laying of a power cable connecting Israel, Cyprus and Greece (and Italy) is also under discussion.

Last week, the Israeli government voted unanimously to join the EU’s Creative Europe cultural program. Negotiations are underway on Israeli participation in other EU programs, too. In a wider European circle, Israel also recently signed its accession to the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Prevention of Human Trafficking, becoming the first non-European member of the Council of Europe to do so.
If Macron’s proposal is accepted, should Israel apply for membership or would it be better off settling for observer status? Formal status in this community would constitute an important normative anchoring and an unequivocal statement about Israel’s membership in the community of liberal democracies, expressing values that the State of Israel aspires to project.”