BRUSSELS (Dec. 1)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who came here this week for his first official visit to the European Community headquarters, has gained the support of Belgian leaders for upgrading Israel’s relationship with the E.C.
During his one-day visit here Wednesday, Rabin met with Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene and later with Foreign Minister Willy Claes.
After meeting with Rabin, Claes told reporters that Belgium, which is chairing the E.C, would ask the organization’s other member states for a “clear mandate” to upgrade Israel’s status with the E.C.
Since 1975, Israel has had a free-trade agreement with the Common Market countries. Rabin is seeking to elevate Israel to the status of associate member, the highest level a non-European country can attain within the E.C.
The new status is significant to Israel since it would permit a larger access for Israeli products in European markets. In addition, as an associate member Israel would have greater opportunities for cooperation on scientific research and development projects.
Claes was optimistic that Israel will soon receive the new status.
“We hope that this will happen soon, perhaps at the next meeting of the E.C. Council of Ministers on Dec. 6 and 7,” he said after meeting with Rabin.
Israel’s trade deficit with the E.C. amounted to about $5 billion last year.
Rabin was also scheduled to attend separate meetings with Jacques Delors, president of the European Executive Commission, and with King Albert of Belgium at the Royal Palace.