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EU-Jordan cooperation remains strong and diverse

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With 2019 marking the 40th anniversary of the European Union’s presence in Jordan, the partnership between the EU and Jordan remains strong and diverse.

Today, the report on the partnership between the European Union and Jordan for the period between June 2018 and April 2019 was released. It illustrates the excellent cooperation that the EU and Jordan maintained during that period and highlights progress in the key areas as defined in the EU-Jordan Partnership Priorities adopted in November 2016.

“The European Union is the main and the most reliable partner and supporter for Jordan and Jordanians. Now, as we have been in the past, and as we will be in the future.  Over the last year, we have stood by Jordan in addressing the country’s economic and social situation and in facing the repercussions of the neighbouring conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East. Despite those challenges, Jordan managed to maintain internal stability and continued to play a wise, stabilising and moderating role in the region” said High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini.

The EU is convinced that the 5-year reform Matrix and the Renaissance/Nahda Plan for the years 2019-2020 will create more jobs and will develop an attractive environment for socio-economic actors, especially by investing in future generations. During each of my visits to Jordan, I have been struck by the creativity and energy of Jordanian people, women and men, who can definitely count on the true and diverse partnership with the EU” said Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn.

During the reporting period, with regard to strengthening democratic governance, Jordan has recorded legislative improvements on the independence of the judiciary and on women’s rights. Specific actions under the policies launched by the new government aim at improving education and health, promoting investment and trade, empowering the judiciary and developing active citizenship,  closely reflecting EU-Jordan partnership priorities.

The presence of Syrian refugees continued to put pressure on Jordan’s economy, its scarce natural resources and its infrastructure. The EU maintained its critical role in supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan as well as hosting communities, mobilising almost €1.3 billion to help the country cope with the consequences of the Syrian crisis since 2011. The third Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” that the EU hosted in March 2019 confirmed the full support of the international community for Jordan, as shown by an overall increase in pledges compared to the previous year.

EU-Jordan cooperation also continued on foreign and security policy, private sector development and business environment, energy and resources management, transport and expanded on education, research and innovation and culture programs.

Over the past year, the EU has been striving to maintain a balance between supporting Jordan politically and financially and supporting reforms that will put the country on the path to self-reliance. The EU remains committed to support a secure, democratic and economically strong Jordan with a robust human rights-based governance system through policy dialogue, financial assistance and specific projects.

Background

EU-Jordan cooperation under the Partnership Priorities covers fields ranging from promoting economic stability and a better business environment, sustainable and knowledge-based growth, quality education and job creation to strengthening democratic governance, the rule of law and human rights, environment, climate change, culture and transport, strengthening cooperation on migration and mobility and on regional stability and security, including counter-terrorism.

Since 2011 and up to April 2019, the EU mobilised over €2.1 billion in financial support to Jordan, including almost €1.3 billion to help the country cope with the consequences of the Syrian crisis. This includes humanitarian aid, together with longer-term resilience and development support in areas such as education, livelihoods, water, sanitation and health, plus macro-financial assistance, addressed to Syrian refugees and Jordanian host communities.

During the period covered by the report, multiple high-level bilateral meetings and visits took place. Those include the visit of His Majesty the King of Jordan to Brussels in December 2018, the visits of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides and the Chair of the European Union Military Committee to Jordan, and bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in April 2019. The EU-Jordan Association Committee in December 2018 was another opportunity to further deepen the dialogue on human rights and democracy, security, regional developments, economic reforms and the simplification of the Rules of Origin scheme. 

Continued EU-Jordan cooperation on foreign and security policy include Jordan’s participation in EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and dialogue on counterterrorism, security, judicial cooperation, integrated border management (IBM), civil protection and disaster management.

Cooperation in the field of Research and Innovation was boosted by Jordan’s participation in the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area (PRIMA), following the entry into forced of the International Agreement between the EU and Jordan in January 2018. 24 additional Jordanian researchers have also benefited from Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowships to pursue their research abroad, bringing the total number to 49 since 2014.

Cooperation on education and culture programs expended with the acceleration of scholarly exchanges through the Erasmus+ and EU Solidarity Corps programmes that link EU and Jordan youth. Over 1,700 Jordanians and Syrians in Jordan were given scholarships under the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis to enable them to pursue academic degrees, vocational or language trainings and boost their employability. 

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Conditions worsen for stranded migrants along Belarus-EU border

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At least eight people have died along the border between Belarus and the European Union, where multiple groups of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants have been stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions. 

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCRappealed for urgent action on Friday, to save lives and prevent further suffering at the border with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. The latest casualty was reported within the past few days. 

UNHCR warned that the situation will further and rapidly deteriorate as winter approaches, putting more lives in danger. 

For the Agency’s Regional Director for Europe, Pascale Moreau, “when fundamental human rights are not protected, lives are at stake.” 

“It is unacceptable that people have died, and the lives of others are precariously hanging in the balance. They are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now,” he said. 

According to media reports, the EU regards the increase in asylum seekers at the border, a direct result of Belarus, in effect, weaponizing migrants, in retaliation for sanctions placed on the Government over the suppression of the protest movement following last year’s disputed re-election of President Lukashenko.  

International group 

Among those stranded are 32 Afghan women, men and children. They have been left in limbo between Poland and Belarus since mid-August, unable to access asylum and any form of assistance. They do not have proper shelter and no secure source of food or water. 

A group of 16 Afghans tried to cross into Poland this week, but they were apprehended and not allowed to apply for asylum. They were also denied access to legal assistance. Within a few hours, they were pushed back across the border to Belarus. 

So far, UNHCR has not been granted access to meet with the group from the Polish side, despite repeated requests, and only met them a few times from the Belarusian side to deliver life-saving aid. 

International law 

The Agency has been advocating for the group to be granted asylum, since the Afghans have expressed their wish to settle either in Belarus or in Poland. 

The request has been ignored by both sides. For UNHCR, that is “a clear violation of international refugee law and international human rights law.” 

“We urge Belarus and Poland, as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to abide by their international legal obligations and provide access to asylum for those seeking it at their borders.  

“Pushbacks, that deny access to territory and asylum, violate human rights in breach of international law”, said Mr. Moreau. 

UNHCR urges the authorities to determine and address humanitarian and international protection needs, and find viable solutions. The agency also stands ready to support refugees, together with other relevant stakeholders. 

“People must be able to exercise their rights where they are, be it in Belarus or in Poland or other EU States where they may be located. This must include the possibility to seek asylum, access to legal aid, information and appropriate accommodation”, Mr. Moreau concluded. 

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Focus on the recovery from the pandemic at the 19th EU Regions Week

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The annual European Week of Regions and Cities has shown how the EU and national and regional governments can support European citizens and their local communities with public policies aimed at investing in a fairer, greener and more digital future for recovery. Under the theme ‘Together for Recovery’, more than 300 sessions, including debates with high-profile officials, regional and local representatives, an inspiring Citizens’ Dialogue, various workshops as well as an Award for outstanding young journalists, celebrated the EU values of cohesion and solidarity.

Taking place in a hybrid format, with sessions both physical and virtual, the 19th EU Regions Week had one main mission: highlighting the role of EU investments in the recovery from the pandemic and in facing common challenges. The event kicked off with a press conference with Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, who underlined that “Cohesion Policy was one of the first responders in the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by the core value of EU solidarity”.

The second annual local and regional barometer was presented by Apostolos Tzitzikostas, followed by a debate with members of the European Committee of the Regions. The report confirmed that the pandemic related measures put at risk regional and local finances, resulting in a 180 billion budget cut for local and regional authorities across Europe. At the same time, 1 in 3 local and regional politicians want regions and cities to become more influential in EU policy-making on health issues.

Unless we measure the state of our regions and cities, we cannot understand the state of our Union” said Apostolos Tzitzikostas, President of the European Committee of the Regions. “Only by taking the pulse of our communities, we can decide how effective the EU has been on the ground, and what the EU needs to do to help its people”.

Further taking stock of the EU cohesion policy response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as informing the general public, various workshops touched upon life before and after the pandemic, including explanations regarding the role of regions and cities for a Green Transition, the Cohesion Policy 2021-2027 and NextGenerationEU, as well as the CRII, CRII+, React-EU support packages for regional and local healthcare services and equipment.

Young journalists were also invited to take part in the EU Regions Week 2021, getting the opportunity to debate with Elisa Ferreira at the Citizens’ Dialogue. In the Youth4Regions programme for aspiring journalists, Irene Barahona Fernandez from Spain and Jack Ryan from Ireland won the 2021 Megalizzi-Niedzielski prize for aspiring journalists.

About the event

The European Week of Regions and Cities (#EURegionsWeek) is the largest EU-wide event on regional development. It is co-organised by the European Commission and the European Committee of the Regions.

In total, more than 12 000 participants and 900 speakers joined the 4-day event either physically or online, showing engagement in all corners of EU society – from our vibrant youth to our high-profile officials, local and regional representatives, academic experts and professional specialists, displaying a common readiness to tackle what the future holds, together.

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EU Politics

EU and Qatar sign landmark aviation agreement

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The European Union and the State of Qatar today signed a comprehensive air transport agreement, upgrading rules and standards for flights between Qatar and the EU. The agreement sets a new global benchmark by committing both sides to fair competition, and by including social and environmental protection. The signing means new opportunities for consumers, airlines and airports in Qatar and the EU.

Qatar is an increasingly important aviation partner for the EU. It was the 15th largest extra-EU market in 2019 with 6.3 million passengers travelling between the EU and Qatar. Ensuring open and fair competition for air services between both is therefore crucial, also for routes between the EU and Asia.

Adina Vălean, Commissioner for mobility and transport, said: “This agreement, the first one between the EU and the Gulf region, is a global benchmark for forward-looking aviation agreements. It is testimony to our shared commitment to economically, socially and environmentally sustainable aviation, based on a modern framework covering fair competition and closer cooperation on social and environmental matters. This agreement will bring new opportunities, more choice and higher standards for passengers, industry and aviation workers.”

Today’s agreement creates a level playing field that is expected to result in new air transport opportunities and economic benefits for both sides:

  • All EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights from any airport in the EU to Qatar and vice versa for Qatari airlines.
  • EU airports in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands will be subject to a gradual build-up of capacity until 2024. For more details on this, see the Q&A.
  • Strong provisions on open and fair competition will guarantee a level playing field.
  • The parties recognised the importance of social matters, agreed to cooperate on these and to improve their respective social and labour laws and policies as per their international commitments.

The agreement will facilitate people-to-people contacts and expand commercial opportunities and trade. Going beyond traffic rights, the EU-Qatar agreement will provide a single set of rules, high standards and a platform for future cooperation on a wide range of aviation issues.

Background

Qatar is a close aviation partner for the European Union; more than 6 million passengers travelled between the EU and Qatar per year under the existing 26 bilateral air transport agreements with EU Member States prior to the pandemic. While direct flights between most EU Member States and Qatar have already been liberalised by those bilateral agreements, none of them include provisions on fair competition, or social and environmental issues, which the Commission considers essential for a modern aviation agreement.

In 2016, the European Commission obtained authorisation from the Council to negotiate an EU-level aviation agreement with Qatar, which started on 4 March 2019. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the parties before formally entering into force, it will start being applied from today’s signature.

Similar EU comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other partner countries, namely the United States, Canada, the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, Israel and Ukraine. Further air transport agreements with Armenia and Tunisia are expected to be signed in the coming weeks.

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