Israel-EU air agreement faces moment of truth

Ratification of the air agreement between the EU and Israel turned into a power struggle between the Israeli cabinet and workers unions.



The largest workers union in the country is gathering representatives of the unions of all three Israeli airlines to stop the agreement.



The agreement was initially signed last year, but its ratification was postponed until after the general election.



But now the unions are forming a united front against it and all the signs are that the government will surrender.



The plan was to implement the agreement gradually after the ratification, but this now looks like an unrealistic target.



The deal would allow all EU airlines to operate direct flights to Israel from anywhere in the EU and Israeli carriers to be able to operate flights to airports throughout the union.



The EU-Israel air transport market would be opened gradually so that by the start of the summer season in 2017 the market would be fully open with no restrictions on the number of weekly flights between Israel and the EU.



Based on the experience of similar agreements, the gradual opening of the market is expected to encourage a larger number of direct flights from Israel to more destinations in Europe at lower prices than today while also reducing flight prices to Israel for European travellers.



In parallel to gradually opening up the respective markets, the agreement also aims to integrate Israel into a wider common aviation area with the EU. 



Israel will implement regulatory requirements and standards equivalent to EU aviation rules in areas such as aviation safety, the environment, consumer protection, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition and social aspects.



As I wrote in this blog before, only a complete reshaping of the Israeli airlines would allow them to compete in a market with completely new rules.



And the emergency meeting today is a signal to the government not to take the last step. This meeting ended with a threat to start a general strike of the Israeli airlines on Sunday if the cabinet ratifies the agreement.



To judge by past experience, the ministers will find a way to postpone implementation or twist it in such a way that makes it useless.



But on Sunday the politicians will face a dilemma – admit that Israel cannot fulfil international agreements or stand up to the threat, ready for a fight.

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