Why the EU-Jordan partnership is so crucial

HR/VP Blog - Last week I was in Jordan to hold the 14th Association Council with the EU, the first time we did so in a partner country. Jordan plays a key role in a critical region in a period marked by increasing geopolitical tensions and socioeconomic difficulties due to the Russian war against Ukraine. We were pleased to strengthen our ties with such an essential partner.

Jordan EU

 

In February 2020, Jordan was one of the first countries I visited as HR/VP, just before the pandemic. I returned two years later in a profoundly changed world. With 10.8 million inhabitants, Jordan’s population is relatively small and the country has not been blessed with natural resources as many of its neighbours. However, Jordan plays a crucial stabilizing and moderating role in a region beset by multiple conflicts and tensions. This is one of the main reasons why our partnership with Jordan is so important.

 

A longstanding special relationship

During my stay, we held the 14th Association Council between the EU and Jordan. I was accompanied by my colleague Commissioner Várhelyi and the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Ireland, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Greece. Association Councils bring together representatives of the Union, of the 27 Member States and of our partner country to discuss how to deepen further our partnerships. Usually, these Councils are held in Brussels or Luxemburg. In Jordan, it was the first time that we met in the partner country. My colleague Ayman al Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates who co-chaired the council with me, made sure that Jordan gave a high profile to our meeting, in particular with His Majesty King Abdullah II addressing us at the end of our discussions. Jordan is also the first country in the Southern Neighbourhood with which we have agreed new Partnership Priorities for this mandate, an agreement that we publicly signed during this meeting. These two firsts are a sign of the quality and importance of our long-standing relationship.

 

Putin’s war against Ukraine is triggering a global food crisis with his troops looting and destroying Ukrainian grain silos, bombing fields and blocking the Ukrainian ports.

 

The meeting took place in the context of the war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine. This war is creating global shock waves, notably by causing a sharp rise in energy and food prices. Putin is de-constructing the international rules-based order, trying to replace the rule of law by the rule of the gun. He is also triggering a global food crisis with his troops looting and destroying Ukrainian grain silos, bombing fields and blocking the Ukrainian ports. Before the war, Ukraine exported up to 5 million tons of grain per month. In May, it was only 600.000 tons, ten times less. We are facing a grain war, using hunger as a weapon against the most vulnerable - not only in Ukraine, but also in the Middle East, in Africa and in Asia. 

 

Jordan’s unambiguous position at the UN General Assembly

During our bilateral talks, we touched upon this issue with King Abdullah II and Foreign Minister Safadi. We welcomed Jordan's unambiguous position on the war unleashed by Putin at the United Nations General Assembly and assured Jordan of our continued support in dealing with the consequences of this war. We are also working hard to unblock with the UN the Black Sea route and to build alternatives routes to ship the wheat out of Ukraine.

Jordan is also severely affected by the conflicts in the region. For more than ten years now, it hosts some 700,000 UNHCR registered Syrian refugees, but probably twice that number in reality with unregistered ones. And this in a country of 10.8 million inhabitants. Jordan is one of the countries in the region that has made the greatest effort to welcome refugees with dignity. The EU will continue to actively support Jordan and other countries in hosting and providing basis services to Syrian refugees as we demonstrated during the sixth Brussels conference on the future of Syria and the region organised in May, which raised € 6.4 billion for this purpose. Together with the Jordanian authorities, we will also continue to put pressure on the Assad regime to initiate a political process to solve the Syria crisis that will create conditions to make the refugees be able to return home.

 

Together with the Jordanian authorities, we will continue to put pressure on the Assad regime to initiate a political process in Syria crisis that will create conditions to make the refugees be able to return home.

 

The growing tensions in Israel and the prolonged stalemate in the Middle East peace process are also a major source of concern for us as well as for Jordan, which host over two million Palestinian refugees since 1967. In this regard, we actively support and will continue to support UNRWA, the United Nations agency that serves these refugee camps. During the mission to Jordan, my team visited Baqa’a, the oldest camp which hosts 120,000 Palestinian refugees in the suburbs of Amman. They were able to see first-hand the extent of UNRWA's work in health, education and social services for a population that often remains in very precarious conditions.

Jordan has also played a crucial role since 1967 in the management of Temple Mount/Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem. The Jordan authorities are, like us, worried about the attempts to call into question the status quo that we have witnessed in recent weeks. Together we intend to defend the existing rules and the central role they entrust to the Hashemite Custodianship of the Holy Sites. We also want to coordinate our efforts to revive the Middle East peace process and promote the two-state solution. We are fully aware of the difficulty of the task in the current context, but we share with the Jordanian authorities the conviction that the two-state solution, supported by United Nations resolutions, remains the only viable way to resolve this conflict. 

 

We share with the Jordanian authorities the conviction that the two-state solution, supported by United Nations resolutions, remains the only viable way to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

 

We intend also to strengthen our cooperation to help Jordan succeed in its green and digital transition. This is a difficult challenge in a country that is already suffering the consequences of climate change and whose population has doubled since 2000. In this context, the water issue is a major one: Jordan is one of the most affected countries in the world regarding water scarcity. This is why we are supporting the construction of a desalination plant on the Red sea and a pipeline to transport fresh water from Aqaba to Amman.

 

Support to Jordan’s efforts to reforest and strengthen its agriculture

We are also supporting Jordan’s efforts to reforest and strengthen its agriculture. My team visited a project led by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture with the support of the European Union in the Al Karak region. Its aim is to help vulnerable Jordanian families and Syrian refugees develop agricultural activities in their communities to increase the country's resilience and food self-sufficiency. Our joint projects also concern the deployment of renewable energies and digital development.

Finally, we also exchanged on democratic principles, fundamental freedoms and human rights that we intend to make a cornerstone of our partnership with Jordan. During our discussions, I expressed our strong support for the ambitious reform agenda, especially on modernising the political system, that His Majesty King Abdullah II highlighted in his speech on Jordan Independence Day last May.

In short, in a region that is at the heart of today’s global tensions and where we have not only friends, we were very pleased to strengthen our ties with such an essential partner as Jordan. 

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