Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
A very important partner for the EU
This trip to Jordan comes during my first visit to the Middle East since taking up office last November as Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations. My decision to visit the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan reflects the importance that I attach to our partnership. Jordan is a prime interlocutor in the Middle East and in Europe's Southern Neighbourhoodas a whole.
We have a long standing relationship dating back to the mid-seventies when we signed our first cooperation agreement. In the intervening years, we have strengthened our close relations, notably in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
EU support for Jordan in challenging times
This brings me to the first of my three messages for you today:
The EU continues to stand by Jordan in particular during these challenging times for the country and for the whole region. We are strongly committed to continuing our political support to help you withstand the knock-on effects of regional crises.
Further opportunities to strengthen ourbilateral relations
Irrespective of these crises, EU-Jordan relations have continued to develop favourably, and Jordan is now one of the EU's closest partners in the region. The so-called "advanced status" of our partnership means that we are now cooperating on a larger number of areas and that specific commitments have been made on both sides.
Our cooperation has in fact already begun to yield results. Let me give you one example.Last year, Jordan became one of only two countries in the Southern Neighbourhood to be included in the Erasmus+ programme with anaward of 5 million Euros of funding. There are several benefits which this programme will bring to Jordan, including helping up to 400 undergraduate and post-graduate students benefit from higher education opportunities in the EU. It will also help universities to develop their capacity for international co-operation and enhance the links between research and industry. Recognition and compatibility of Jordanian higher education institutions' qualifications in the EU will also be improved.
This combines mobility and person to person exchanges with investment in youth. It is of fundamental importance especially after the tragic events in Paris which underline the need for more dialogue and understanding of our different cultures.
Like Jordan, we want to further enhance ourbilateral cooperation across the board, including through close political coordination at the highest levels. The initiatives endorsed at the last Association Council on Security Dialogue, Mobility Partnership and negotiating a Deep and Comprehensive FreeTrade Area represent exciting opportunities for us to strengthen our ties.
Strong support for Jordan’s political reforms
My second message is that the EU continues to strongly support Jordan’s reform effortsunder the leadership and personal commitment of His Majesty, King Abdullah. Reinforcing participative democracy, enhancing the rule of law and promoting respect for human rights is the best way to respond to the challenges the country has been facing, and to ensure long-term stability.
Despite a challenging regional environment,Jordan has moved ahead with important political and economic reforms. I am alsopleased that the EU has been able to provide Jordan with funding amounting to 314 millionEuros in 2011-2013 to support the implementation of these democratic reforms.
For the period covering 2014-2017, we haveset up a New Single Support Framework with up to 382 million Euros available to fund programmes on rule of law, energy and private sector development.
In 2015 the funding will focus on two important sectors, “Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency” and “Support for the Development of the Private Sector”.
The programme to support the development of the private sector will aim to enhance inclusive growth and international competitiveness inJordan. It will support the development of a more favourable economic environment and competitive private sector, which should helpto increase trade flows and investment between the EU Member States and Jordan.
Support for Jordan to cope with Syrian crisis
I need not tell you that Jordan has been severely affected by the Syrian crisis at the political, economic and social level since its outbreak in 2011. With more than 620,000 Syrian registered refugees currently in Jordanian territory, the EU has committed over €300 million to support Jordan to cope with the crisis. This cooperation includes humanitarian, development and also security support.
Last year, a further €66 million was allocated to help deal with the influx of Syrian refugees, and in particular to offset the costs to Jordan of hosting Syrian children in its schools.
We will continue to provide more support this year. To this end we have established the EU Trust Fund for Syria (the Madad fund), with an initial contribution of €20 million from the EU and €3 million from Italy. Other Member States are expected to contribute to this fund and it will also be possible to seek financing from other sources. Given the impact of the Syrian crisis, Jordan will also be a beneficiary of this funding.
Jordan: a consistent source of reason and moderation
Let me also take this opportunity to commend the consistent, balanced and constructive positions taken by Jordan on the regional and international level. Jordan is a worthy member of the Security Council and has maintained its known aim of promoting stability. This is particularly so in the case of your immediate neighbours Iraq and Syria.
I would also like to commend the laudable role that Jordan consistently plays in seeking to achieve the two-state solution to the Middle East Peace Process. The Arab-Israeli conflict has placed considerable demands on Jordan, but this country has demonstrated courage and leadership in its pursuit of peace.
We value this commitment and in particular the wisdom that Jordan and its leaders have consistently demonstrated. At a time when we want to defeat intercultural tensions, Jordan continues to be a consistent source of reason and moderation. This is also why it is in our interest to deepen our engagement at all levels.
ENP review – important that Jordan's voice is heard
My third message is that I am here to listenand learn. The European Neighbourhood Policy was created in 2004 to build new partnerships with the EU’s direct neighbours, based on shared values, stability and prosperity. Those fundamental objectives remain as valid today as they were 10 years ago; indeed, they are now more important than ever.
But the situation in Europe's neighbourhood has changed dramatically since the ENP has been in place and in particular since 2011. The EU too has changed, having grown in size and adapted to a new economic reality.
There is widespread recognition across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in the East, that we need to refresh our engagement in the region. President Juncker has asked me to take stock of the ENP and suggest a way forward within the first 12 months of my mandate. The process of reflection has already started. It will be important to find the right approach that reflects the particular circumstances of each country. Over the coming months we want to hear from all of our neighbours, and that includes hearing your views and learning fromyour experiences at all levels and from all stakeholders ranging from government and civil society organisations to business and academia.
I want to see a reviewed ENP that on the one hand can better deliver the interests and priorities of the European Union. Equally important though, is that the new Policy can adapt and respond more swiftly to partners' changing needs. We will find that many of these are shared goals: stability, prosperity and security. We need to ensure most of all that the ENP can deliver tangible results that make a real difference to people's lives.
It is of paramount importance that Member States and partner countries feel a sense of ownership of ENP policy. We are thereforetaking steps to create an inclusive review process, engaging both partner countries and EU Member States actively.
It will also be important for us to speak to others whom we consider to be interested parties, even if they are not direct stakeholders: the so-called Neighbours of the Neighbours. While this would include some of your direct neighbours, I would also mention in particular the League of Arab States; I had a very interesting initial discussion on this with Secretary General El Araby only two weeks ago in Brussels. This should continue to be one of the aspects of the deepening co-operation between the EU and the Arab League.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As our relations and the Neighbourhood Policy evolve, the driving force behind our relationship remains constant: we see Jordan as a neighbour and partner with a shared desire to promote peace, stability and prosperity in our common neighbourhood. Let me assure you that the EU will stand beside you to achieve this objective.