The European Union and Israel have signed an air transportation agreement that will gradually develop an aviation area with common rules.
Under the deal, all 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-Israel air transportation market will be opened incrementally over the next five years so that by 2018, the market will be fully open with no restrictions on the number of flights.
The gradual implementation of the agreement will give air carriers on both sides time to prepare for increased competition. Siim Kallas, European Commission Vice-President responsible for mobility and transport, said: "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. This agreement represents a significant further step in the implementation of the EU's renewed and reinforced external aviation policy adopted in 2012."
The agreement also aims to integrate Israel into a wider common aviation area with the EU based on common rules. Israel will implement regulatory requirements equivalent to EU aviation rules in areas such as safety, environment, consumer protection, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition issues and social aspects.
Based on similar experiences in the past with other countries, the gradual opening of the market is expected to encourage a larger number of direct connections. The gradual implementation of the agreement will give sufficient time for air carriers on both sides to prepare for increased competition.
The EU is the most important aviation market for Israel, accounting for 57% of scheduled international air passenger movements to and from Israel. Similarly, Israel is one of the most important aviation markets for the EU in the Middle East with a strong growth potential. In 2011, EU-Israel traffic accounted for 7.2 million passengers, which represents an increase of 6.8% compared with 2010.
Today, there are scheduled direct passenger flight connections between Israel and 18 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).
A recent study carried out for the European Commission has estimated the total economic benefit of an EU-Israel air transport agreement to be approximately €350 million per year once market opening is complete.