Source AP ©

EU Transport Commissioner proposes air safety deal with Israel

An agreement with Israel on cooperation in air safety, security, traffic management and other issues, was proposed be the European Commission on Tuesday.

Western Europe accounts for 54 percent of international air travel to and from Israel, an increasingly popular destination for European tourists, said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

He proposed a deal establishing common regulatory standards in safety and security as well as air traffic management, aviation technology, research and industrial cooperation.

Barrot said Israel has expressed an interest in a "comprehensive agreement" that would effectively subject its aviation sector to the same regulatory and operating rules as EU air carriers. The EU is working on a similar deal with neighbors in Eastern Europe and North Africa.

EU governments must approve a negotiating mandate for a deal with Israel.

Barrot called Israel "a key partner" and one of the most important Middle East aviation markets for the EU.

Air travel between the EU and Israel grew at an average annual rate of 3 percent between 1995 and 2005. In 2004, 1.5 million European tourists visited Israel, 89 percent of whom arrived by air.

"This trend is expected to accelerate," Barrot said.

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