With an Eye on the European Market, Israel Building Separate E.c. Mission

Israel plans to spend $1 million to construct a separate embassy here to deal exclusively with the affairs of the European Community and its legislative body, the Parliament of Europe, which is based in Strasbourg, France.

The move is an indication of the increasing importance Israel attaches to its relations with the 12 E.C. nations, which are working toward complete economic integration by 1992.

The plans were outlined over the weekend by Reuven Merhav, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who came here from Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the Brussels Embassy staff.

At present, the embassy in Brussels, where the European Community is headquartered, houses Israel’s diplomatic missions to Belgium, Luxembourg and the E.C.

Avi Primor, the ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, also serves as Israel’s envoy to the E.C. He is now slated to head the separate E.C. mission. Another ambassador will be appointed for Belgium and Luxembourg.

Israel is preparing for 1992, when the 12 E.C. countries will eliminate all existing trade barriers to create a vast unified European market.

Israeli policymakers believe their country must be ready to adapt to this emerging political and economic reality.

According to Merhav and other officials here, legal and economic expertise will play a key role in gaining access to the post-1992 European markets.

TO BEGIN FUNCTIONING NEXT YEAR

By placing new emphasis on relations with the E.C., Israel hopes to open possibilities for joint ventures with European companies and institutions, and to benefit from a wide range of programs of international cooperation.

The planned separate embassy will accommodate experts from the Israeli Treasury and the Ministries of Industry and Trade, Ecology, Energy, and Science and Development.

At least two experienced diplomats will arrive here soon from Jerusalem, one to strengthen relations with the E.C. and the 518-member European Parliament, and the other to serve as a public relations and media officer.

It is widely believed here that Israel already has missed some opportunities to improve its economic standing with the E.C. because of a lack of expertise and staffing to deal with complex technical problems arising from the mountain of regulations.

The two-embassy system is expected to begin functioning in the summer or fall of 1990.

Merhav admits it will cost an additional half million dollars a year to maintain the extra diplomatic establishment and staff. But he said it was the cheapest option available.

If it helps Israel repair its chronic trade deficit with the E.C. countries — now running at about $3.5 billion a year — it will be well worth the expenditure, he said.

Although the Cabinet has yet to endorse the Foreign Ministry’s plan, observers here have little doubt that it will do so. They expect construction of the new building to start in a matter of months.

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