Ministry Opposes Increase in Flights to EU Countries

Israel will object to the immediate establishment of new flights between the European Union and Israel, and will instead insist that the market be liberalized only gradually, according to a Transportation Ministry paper prepared in advance of tomorrow's EU-Israel talks on a new flight agreement between the two.

The new agreement is meant to replace existing bilateral aviation agreements between Israel and individual EU members with an agreement with the EU as a whole.

Israel's position is that it is willing to open its skies to competition among flights from European countries to Israel, but only if the total number of flights, as specified in bilateral aviation agreements between Israel and the countries in question, remains unchanged.

In practice, this means that European airlines would be able to fly to and from Israel via a third country, in addition to their direct flights from their home country, as long as the current maximum number of flights between the third country and Israel is not exceeded.

An Italian airline, for instance, could fly to Israel via France, provided that the added flights do not result in the total number of flights between France and Israel exceeding today's current limit.

Thus if the existing agreement between France and Israel provided for 14 regular weekly flights between the countries, but French airlines operated only seven weekly flights, another European airline could operate seven additional flights between France and Israel, thus competing with the airlines that currently operate flights between those countries.

The skies would be fully open to competition between Israel and the EU, similar to the existing open skies policy between Europe and the United States, only after an interim period to be agreed upon with the EU Commission.