Israel, EU Agree to Widen Open Skies Pact

Shared airspace initiative is already boosting traffic between Israel and Europe.

Israel will participate in a regional aviation initiative according to an agreement signed Thursday in a meeting of the joint Israeli and European Community committee on the Open Skies pact.

The Blue-Med Functional Airspace Block (FAB) project aims at establishing a framework for the efficient and safe sharing of airspace over the Mediterranean Sea basin.

The joint committee, which was set up for the purpose of monitoring the implementation of the Open Skies treaty, convened in Tel Aviv for its first biannual meeting since the signing of the Open Skies agreement six months ago. The European delegation was headed by Siim Kallas, EU vice-president and transport commissioner. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz headed the Israeli side.

A dispute erupted when the Israeli team decided unilaterally to eject observers from the Israel Airline Pilots Association and Israeli airline companies from the meeting, and asked the EU to follow suit. The EU responded by protesting the move.

“The pilots association and airlines weren’t removed from their status of observers at the meeting,” claimed Katz in response. “The meeting is a working session between two governments, Israel and the EU, and isn’t any different than other working sessions where observers also aren’t present.”

The Open Skies treaty is already boosting airline traffic between Israel and Europe.

Lufthansa said yesterday it is adding six weekly flights between Israel and Germany starting in March 2014, three to Frankfurt and three to Munich, raising the company’s total number of weekly flights out of Ben-Gurion International Airport to 27. Air Berlin said yesterday it will add five weekly flights to its routes between Israel and Germany starting in April, bringing its weekly total to 17 flights. Low-cost operator EasyJet also said it’s inaugurating a new route between Tel Aviv and Milan starting March, with four weekly flights between the two cities.

Airports Authority