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Why 2016 will see more cooperation between the EU and Jordan

Jan 22,2016 - Last updated at Jan 22,2016

This year has seen a busy start for European Union-Jordan relations. In the coming months, we expect to see a further deepening of our outstanding relations in view of the complex regional situation: the prolonged crisis in Syria is forcing vulnerable people to seek refuge in neighbouring countries and Jordan in particular, which already hosts an enormous number of refugees from Syria and other countries such as Iraq.

It is also impacting Jordan’s economic development and in particular its access to traditional markets in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.

We also continue to monitor radical movements in the region that herald a violent agenda, posing a security risk to Jordan as well as its neighbours and the EU.

The Kingdom is a key partner for the EU in the Middle East. Therefore, we appreciate the country’s considerable efforts in playing a stabilising role in the region, and in particular in the Middle East peace process, the Union for the Mediterranean and the fight against terrorism and radicalisation.

And given the effects that regional developments are having on the Jordanian economy, we will also continue to assist Jordan in responding to domestic pressures.

Our bilateral cooperation targets key political and socio-economic reforms focusing on good governance and the rule of law, economic growth, employment and private sector, development, and renewable energies and energy efficiency.

More broadly, the overall relationship between the EU and Jordan goes beyond political, economic and financial cooperation.

We are particularly proud of the people-to-people connections that we have been harnessing for decades.

We support programmes in culture and education: an increasing number of Jordanians are studying in Europe and benefitting from the top higher education opportunities in the best EU universities.

Artistic exchanges are enriching our dialogue and promoting mutual understanding.

The recent visit of Her Majesty Queen Rania to Brussels, where she met with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker, High-Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, has further cemented our outstanding bilateral relations.

President Junker and Her Majesty discussed the unstable situation in the region, in particular the crisis in Syria.

The Queen called for mobilising more international support for Jordan’s education sector, struggling with the pressure of many Syrian children seeking tuition in Jordanian schools.

She also spoke about Jordan’s domestic challenges created by hosting so many refugees in camps and host communities.

Her Majesty’s visit was followed by Minister Nasser Judeh’s participation in the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, where he voiced the Kingdom’s concerns in the region, primarily linked to terrorism and security, and called for additional support to deal with the increased refugee population in Jordan.

This was an opportunity to confirm that we share an unstable neighbourhood, have the same concerns and are interested in facing these challenged together by deepening our bilateral relations. 

The EU is well placed to respond to these concerns. We appreciate Jordan’s generosity in assisting the refugees despite the economic and social impacts the crisis is having and understand that Jordan needs additional support.

Following Jordan’s calls for increased burden sharing, the EU and its member states’ financial support to Jordan reached over 1 billion euros in bilateral and crisis-related support since the onset of the crisis and this support continues to grow, including the Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian crisis (MADAD) and a recent increase in humanitarian aid.

The international conference planned for February 4 in London will confirm our resolve in responding to the Syria crisis.

In particular, at the conference, the EU will unveil further measures to step up EU-Jordan cooperation. These will include support to strengthen the economic resilience of Jordan, on the one hand, and the development of opportunities for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees through increased access to employment, on the other. 

This is why this year the EU will step up its cooperation with Jordan and mobilise all its instruments to increase support to the country.

The alignment of our views, unity of our action and the strength of our cooperation are essential elements of our outstanding relations that can contribute to the resolution of the regional crises and to shaping a brighter future for the people of Jordan and of our common neighbourhood.

The writer is ambassador of the European Union to Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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