Following eight rounds of negotiations since December 2008, a draft comprehensive aviation agreement between the European Union and Israel was finalised during a final round of negotiations held in Tel Aviv on 22 March 2012. The European Union and Israel initialled the comprehensive aviation agreement on 30 July 2012.
The agreement will gradually open up and integrate the respective markets, strengthen cooperation and offer new opportunities for industry, including airlines, and consumers. As a result of the agreement, 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 transport market will be opened gradually so that by the start of the summer season in 2017, the market will be fully open with no restrictions on the number of weekly flights between Israel and the EU.
Based on the experience of similar agreements signed with other EU neighbouring countries, the gradual opening of the market is expected to encourage a larger number of direct flights from Israel to more destinations in Europe at lower prices than today while also reducing flight prices to Israel for European travellers. Higher volumes of tourism in both directions are expected to create additional jobs and economic benefits on both sides. The gradual implementation of the agreement will give sufficient time for carriers on both sides to prepare for increased competition.
In parallel to gradually opening up the respective markets, the agreement also aims to integrate Israel into a wider Common Aviation Area with the EU. Israel will implement regulatory requirements and standards equivalent to EU aviation rules in areas such as aviation safety, environment, consumer protection, including passenger rights, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition issues and social aspects.
The agreement will replace bilateral air services agreements between EU Member States and Israel.
In 2010, the overall EU-Israel air transport market was 6.75 million passengers, which represents an increase of 13.4% compared to 2009.
A "horizontal" air transport agreement with Israel was signed on 9 December 2008. This agreement brings all existing bilateral air service agreements between EU Member States and Israel in line with EU law. Most importantly, it removes nationality restrictions in the bilateral agreements and thereby allows any EU airline to operate flights between Israel and any EU Member State where it is established - if traffic rights under the relevant bilateral agreement are available.