BRUSSELS (Oct. 5)
Israel will soon become the first non-European country to be associated with the European Union’s research and development programs.
Meeting here last week, the 12 ministers in charge of research within the E.U. have decided to give the European Executive Commission, the E.U.’s executive body, a clear mandate to negotiate with Israel the specifics of a final accord, which is expected to be completed before the end of the year.
The new accord will complement a separate trade and cooperation pact that Israel and the E.U. are currently negotiating in order to update a 1975 agreement between Israel and what was then known as the Common Market.
In recent years, Israel has tried to elevate its trading status to gain better access to the European market.
Israel is currently suffering a $5 billion trade deficit with the E.U., which is its main trading partner.
The E.U.’s 12 member nations decided to strengthen their relations with Israel after it signed the Palestinian self-rule accord last fall.
Some E.U. member states were not very enthusiastic about allowing Israel to participate in European research projects because they feared the effects Israeli competition would have on companies within their countries.
But the ministers were able to approve the move after two of the leading opponents, Britain and France, were convinced to lift their opposition.
The high level of Israeli scientific research was key to getting the move approved.
“The Israeli scientists are of an excellent level, but their only problem is the lack of financial means,” said Volker Knorich, a German minister who chaired the Sept. 29 meeting of research ministers.
Germany currently holds the E.U. chairmanship.
The accord will allow Israeli scientists and companies to fully participate in 19 of the 20 specific research programs already launched by the E.U.
It will give Israel quick access to the results of European research programs, which cover such areas as industrial, naval and communications technologies, energy and agriculture.
The nuclear sector alone has been excluded from Israeli participation.