Israel and EU Launch Talks in Brussels on 'Open Skies' Deal

Agreement would spur airline competition, allow European companies to operate Israel-Europe flights.

Israel and the European Union launched negotiations in Brussels on Thursday aimed at an air traffic agreement that would allow other airlines to compete for routes connecting Israel and the continent.

Both sides seek to formulate language agreeable to Israel and the EU member states in a deal that would replace the existing agreements which Israel signed with each individual state.

The new agreement is meant to remove existing limitations placed on foreign airlines who seek to operate flights between Israel and Europe. The policy, known as "open skies," is meant to spur more competition among the airlines, which would likely drive down the price of airline tickets.

In the run-up to the talks, the Transportation Ministry has prepared a task force to be headed by Mali Siton, who chairs the ministry's legal department, and the Civilian Aviation Authority chief, Udi Zohar.

The Israeli delegation in the talks will be headed by Transportation Ministry director general Gideon Sitterman. In addition, the ministry has hired Dr. Sharon Sadeh, who laid the groundwork for the project and who will serve as the point man in future dealings with the European Commission.