Fulvio Martusciello, Member of the European Parliament, Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the State of Israel
The European Union has fostered closer ties with Israel than most other countries outside of Europe. Positive interactions between the two parties have been made possible by integrating Israel into a variety of EU frameworks. The high levels of cooperation that we experience today have been facilitated by decades of intricate work by EU-Israel delegations. The EU-Israel Association Agreement produced legislature that allowed for further political and economic integration. This agreement increases liberalization on a number of fronts, and formed a Council and Committee in Israel that mirror those in the EU. The formation of these governing bodies set the stage for regularly scheduled meetings between the two parties, ensuring heightened communication. Israel is the most important EU trade partner in the Mediterranean region, and the EU is Israel’s largest trading partner. The continuation of positive cooperation, –politically, socially and economically–, is the express concern of the EU’s delegation for relations with Israel. However, recent fractionalizations in the EU especially concerning the Israel-Palestinian conflict have strained the ties between the EU and Israel. Israel is a great asset to the EU in a number of fields, especially those related to cyber security, agriculture, high-technology and counter-terrorism. By examining a range of issues by which Israel interacts with the EU we can see why it is in the best interest of both parties to foster cooperation into the future.
Israel has a booming cyber security industry, and is second only to the United States. Since Israel’s founding defence and security have been of their highest priorities. Israel shares borders with a list of potentially hostile and unstable states, which have driven them to cultivate an elite cyber intelligence unit. Sharing militaristic technologies can be dangerous, and states seldom sell their most recent discoveries for security reasons. The best way for the EU to acquire the most up to date cyber security technologies is to cultivate trust with Israel. One way that this goal can be achieved is by providing support for Israel in their fight against terrorism. As terror attacks spread through Europe, a united security front is of increased importance. Although cyber security is inherently important, it also represents an economic opportunity. Israel’s cyber intelligence unit is defensive, but cyber security is not purely militarist in Israel. They also have a huge industry concerned with private firms and individual consumers. In 2016 Israeli cyber security companies garnered 15% of global investment capital, which is quite exceptional when you consider Israel’s GDP and global economic position. Israeli cyber technologies are very sophisticated, and further cooperation with Israeli on this front represents a huge asset to the development and security of the EU.
In January of 2010, an agreement on agriculture went into force that further liberalized trade between the EU and Israel. The agreement had its most significant effect on fish and fishery products, as barriers to trade for other products have mostly been removed. The EU imports fish from all over the world, and notably has significant stock in the Cook Islands, located thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, these fisheries, and others like it, have presented issues with sustainability. A diversification of the EU’s agricultural imports will help to support future market stability. This diversification will also foster competition within the Union, lowering prices, and benefiting EU citizens. A deeper integration with Israel can help to cut down on shipping costs and administrative tasks as well. The EU and Israel have a long history of trade agreements (from 1977), which has prepared Israel to abide by EU regulations more readily than other nations. As meetings between the EU and Israel continue delegations will work to find ways to decrease trade barriers in agricultural sectors for the betterment of the EU citizens as well as for Israeli peoples.
The fastest growing industry in Israel is that of high-technology. This industry is growing at 8% a year in Israel, faster than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country. This is in part due to Israel’s early association with the EU Framework Program. In 1996 Israel became the first non-EU country to be associated with the Framework Program, which is now referred to as Horizon 2020. Horizon 2020 awards grants to firms working in Research and Development, and has been quite successful both in Israel and within the EU. What is most important here are the sustainable relationships that scientists and researchers have created between the EU and Israel. Innovations in energy, medicine and robotics have all spawned from lasting EU-Israel cooperation. Recently the EU commission has proposed resolutions that prepare the Union for the future of artificially intelligent robots, and the expansion of the European Cloud project. These resolutions foreshadow the direction in which Europe intends to develop. Securing sustainable ties with Israel’s high-technology industry will help to prepare Europe for a future that is becoming ever more technologically inclined.
Security has always been of paramount importance to the EU, and with recent terrorist attacks across the continent we look to Israel for support. For decades Israelites have been faced with terror attacks, and in that time they have worked effortlessly to secure their citizens. Retaining strong ties with Israel increases the likelihood that they are willing to share vital technologies concerning counter terrorism with the EU. In December of 2016, the EU parliament hosted a conference titled, “Terrorism and Security. What EU can learn from Israel”; officials from each group met to discuss action plans for future terror attacks. Israel is a great partner to have on this front, and has been quite successful relative to their situation. In recent years, the EU has lost a devastating 250 people to terror attacks, while Israel only saw 40 people die over the course of 300 attacks. Their ability to combat terrorism so effectively comes from their cyber presence. Israel’s aim is to meet terrorists in their backyard, before terrorist have a chance to prepare themselves. Israel’s ability to effectively probe social media and other types of communications allows Israelites to identify extremist sentiments before they develop into extremist actions. Counter-terror doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach, but collaborating with Israel is very helpful in developing action plans that will work in the EU under varying conditions.
Growth and development in the EU depends on strategic alliances with likeminded states such as Israel. The longevity of Israel depends on mutually advantageous trade agreements with the EU. As the delegation for EU-Israel relations look to the future, it is important that the EU approach Israel with a unified voice. Recent fractionalizations in the EU, with regard to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, threaten the sustainability of future interactions. Outlined above are a number of issues that unite Israel and the EU, and it would be a detriment to both parties if those interactions, and others like them, were to evaporate. Taking a one-sided approach to dealing with the conflict in Israel will not only delay the peace process, but also it hinders the EU’s ability to interact cooperatively with Israel and/or Palestine. Israel has a lot to offer to the EU, especially in the way of technology. To jeopardize ties with Israel will simultaneously jeopardize the future of development in the EU.
This article was written with the research support of Edwin Reik