Whatever individuals or groups in Europe do, the European Union does not boycott Israel, EU ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said this week in Tel Aviv in a meeting with the head of the Federation of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce.
“Our wide-ranging economic cooperation is thriving and remains very strong. It is possible that our economic ties with Israel are stronger than they are with any other non-EU country,” Faaborg-Andersen told Federation president Uriel Lynn Tuesday.
According to Faaborg-Andersen’s office, Israel has signed no fewer than 240 agreements with the EU as part of the Horizon 2020 research and development program, with grants to Israeli start-ups and research groups worth up to €155 million euros ($170 million). In its previous R&D project, FP7, Israeli companies got NIS 1.6 for every shekel invested, his spokesperson added.
Israel has provided the EU with top-notch technology in a wide range of areas, Faaborg-Andersen said, and now it’s the turn of the EU to reciprocate by helping to reduce the cost of living for Israelis.
Competition from imports can be a key element to reducing the cost of living,” said Faaborg-Andersen, and the EU is ready to help – with advice, economic programs, and, of course, lower-cost goods that could help Israelis to more easily make ends meet.
Recent studies by the OECD have shown that the standard of living in Israel is lower than in Europe, and that is a problem that can be resolved by the Israeli government allowing the free import of more basic goods, such as food and consumer products.
During the meeting with Lynn, whose organization represents over 5,000 Israeli businesses and organizations operating in more than 120 industries, Faaborg-Andersen stressed that the EU does not boycott Israel.
“The EU simply does not consider the West Bank to be part of Israel, so the economic benefits that Israel enjoys from its relationship with Europe do not apply there,” said a spokesperson for the Federation of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce. “Just the opposite – the ambassador was very clear that Europe does a lot of business with Israel, and wants to do more.”
Israel should “reconsider its many regulations that prevent foreign service providers from working in Israel,” said Faaborg-Andersen, and that the EU is ready to help Israel develop a more competitive economy.
Lynn praised the ambassador’s stance, saying that he, too, saw the benefit it removing duties and other charges on foreign products and services, especially on food and agricultural products.
Israel and the EU could, he added, do great things together – and that process could be advanced even further if “Europe would just disconnect politics from the economy, and not use economic policy as a tool to achieve political purposes.”