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Israel, EU ink 'open skies' deal
Over three years of negotiations mature into deal that would see Israeli airline, European counterparts bilaterally expand routes. Tourism, Transportation ministries says deal will benefit consumers and economy alike

Israel and the European Union signed an "open skies" agreement on Monday, after more than three years of negotiations.

 

The deal was signed by Giora Rom, acting Civil Aviation Authority chief at the Transportation Ministry and the EU's chief negotiator Klaus Gail.

 

Monday's deal followed a memo of understanding signed between the parties in the beginning of the year.

 

The deal will allow Israeli airlines and their European counterparts to expand their routes and destinations' list bilaterally.

 

The government and the EU Parliament still have to ratify the deal, but it is expected to take effect within a few months.

 

The deal will be implemented across five years, mostly in order to allow the Israeli airlines to gear for what is sure to be serious new competition.

 

According to the deal, seven new weekly flight options will be added to each European destination every year.

 

Several central European airports, which have heavier traffic, will add only three options a year.

 

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that "After a carful review I was convinced that this deal has great benefits for Israeli airlines.

 

"I believe in Israeli airlines managers' abilities to lead their companies to great success even in an open market situation, which is beneficial for the market as a whole."

 

Katz added that the "liberation" of more Israel-Europe flight routes will bring about the kind of competition that benefits consumers, via reduced prices.

 

"I predict a significant drop in prices and I believe that this deal will increase incoming tourism to Israel and create thousands of new jobs for Israelis," he said.

 

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov lauded the agreement, calling it "an essential move that will jumpstart tourism to Israel by hundreds of thousands of tourists and will bring about a decrease in fares for the Israeli consumer as well."

 

Misezhnikov added that while the new deal will increase competition, "The state must find a way to ensure support for the Israeli airlines within the new agreement."

 

 

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