Ambassador of the European Union to the Middle East to Yemen Times: More than US $100 million has been allocated -to the development of Yemen- in the last four years…The country has fantastic potential. It is going to be a long struggle, but it is good to see that things are starting” [Archives:2000/02/Law & Diplomacy]

January 10 2000

The European Union has become stronger than ever today. As a developing country, Yemen has been interested in strengthening its relationship with the European Union in all fields. As an important donor to Yemen, the EU has so far granted the country more than $200 million for developmental purposes. During his visit to Yemen, YT interviewed Mr. James MORAN the Head of the Amman-Based EU delegation to Jordan (and Yemen). to the Middle East who expressed his intentions to further concentrate on Yemen in future as a country with huge potential. 
Q: What is the main purpose of your visit to Yemen? 
A: The main purpose this time was to present my credentials as the ambassador head of delegation for the European Commission of the European Union here in Yemen which, fortunately, I was able to do and this morning in Aden I met with H.E. the President, and I was able to complete these formalities there. 
Q: How do you evaluate the relationship between Yemen and the European Union? Is it getting better? 
A: Yes I think it is, and I think that we have seen over the last five year a steady progression in the relationship and one sign of that is the financial commitment we have been able to generate for Yemen. Since we started cooperation here in 1977, twenty two years ago we have allocated in development systems grants to the country about 180 million Euro, about US$ 200 million. More than half of that has been allocated in the last four years. So you can see that there has been a rapid rise in our commitment to Yemen since 1995, indeed since the unification of the country took place. I think that is a concrete indication of how the relationship has blossomed since stability returned to Yemen as a country and since the reform process began. 
Q: Are there any particular major projects to do? 
A: There are indeed. We have been visiting some during this visit. I said the main purpose of my visit was to present credentials, but I have also taken advantage of being in the country to meet with government authorities and many other people here to discuss and view some of the projects that are on the way, for example, the Fisheries Project. This project has been something of a success, we have already put in 30 million Euro and some 16 thousand fishermen have benefited from this. I also visited two of the communities enclosed in Aden in the last couple of days and I was very impressed by the fishermen themselves. It is really good to see how they have very quickly taken off with this technology that has been offered to them. Those two communities like many others are these days beginning to prosper and this very good to see. We have looked at humanitarian activities as well, we are very active there in the South, we have helped in the refugees problem. We visited the camp in Basateen, which, of course, was set up some years ago mainly for the Somalis and returnees. 20 thousand people are living in difficult conditions where we are funding help for them through the European NGO and the Water and Sewage Authority. We also toured the free zone there and the port because very shortly we will start new project of Assistant Management Aid to the Free Zone Authority because clearly there is a fantastic potential there. The difficulty I suppose is to get it out there to the world at large, to market it and to convince investors that this something worth looking at and seriously serving. Expertise will be brought in. There are many other projects around the country, but I am simply concentrating on the things we have seen here the last couple of days. 
Q: Yemen is concentrating on three major fields: democratic process, economic reform and human rights. How do you evaluate Yemen’s efforts in these fields? 
A: Well. I think democratization, of course, is a challenge everywhere in the world. I think what we can say here in Yemen is that a start has definitely been made for the first time in the country’s history. Everywhere its a long road. This is not something to achieve overnight. But I have the impression that a very serious start has been made. I also have the impression that the commitment to continue with it is there, most certainly in the country at large and in the government as well. So I think one looks forward with hope for the people of Yemen. We as Europeans, of course, we have our democracy. We mustn’t forget though that it took probably a century in most cases in Europe to come through with what we have today. I keep reminding myself that in the UK women did not get the vote until the early part of this century. Very few countries can do these things quickly, and every country must find its own way. Yemen must find its own way to, and I think at the moment its like that. It is at the experimental stage. It has taken off and it has started. That I can guess is the best thing that one can say for sure. 
On economic reform there is again no question that it is a great challenge, but again there is no question that Yemen has made significant advancement. I think that is actually another factor which helped us generate more assistance for the country in the last few years. Much clearer perspectives have emerged so far as macro-economic stability is concerned. The budget deficit is now very much under control. This was not the case in years past. Inflation looks to be very much under control. I know there are problems with the interest rates, but that is a classic problem with many adjusting countries. It is the same sort of story in Jordan where I am resident of course. Their program is also performing well, but they have similar problems with the monetary side of the equation. So again there are prices to pay. I know it does create some stress and some pain for the people of the country, but there is commitment to that and I think that Yemen has made significant progress over the last years. 
Human rights is an area which is very important. I know that your newspaper is very much involved. I know that very shortly you will have a seminar on that. We applaud that, that in the press and elsewhere in the country that a movement toward better information and the dissemination of information to the people is taking place and this is very positive. I know again it is a cultural specific campaign and it must be. Every country must find its own way there and I do not think there are any absolute values, but I would want to mention here and now that again I think a start has been made. Reports on the country in the last four years show that there has been some progress. 
Q: Regarding human rights and freedom of the press, there have been two incidents in which newspapers were closed. Do you have any reaction to that? 
A: To be honest with you, I do not know the full details of those closures and I prefer not to comment without knowing the details. These things can be quite complex. It is always sad when a newspaper is closed, but I think one would need detailed knowledge of the situation and the legislation in the country. So I prefer not to make a remark about that right now. 
Q: Will you be visiting Yemen in the near future? 
A: Oh yes indeed. Normally one would come to Yemen at least four times a year. I am credited to Yemen and based in Jordan. We have a permanent posts here; we have the European Commission Technical Office here in Sanaa which you are well aware of, and of course we depend very much on that to help the administration of our programs. But we are coming down from Jordan, myself, my colleagues at least once a month. I would certainly want to come to Yemen myself four times a year. 
Q: We have heard that there have been some problems in the program, how has the delegation been treated by the government? 
A: I think very well in the end we managed to do what needed to, and at a very very busy time, there are so many things going on the country. At the end of the day, I am very satisfied with the way things went, we were able to see everybody that we wanted to see. We were able to present the credentials which was very successfully done and very graciously done. At the end of the day, and it is the end of the day, because this is the last evening I am here, I return with a good feeling about the mission. 
Q: Regarding cooperation between the European Union and the NGOs in Yemen, for example, in cultural exchange because one of the NGOs is Yemen Times, and there is a project of having a European supplement. Do you have any future projects with NGOs directly? 
A: We do deal with the NGO’s directly. In fact we are doing it in a number of areas. In the refugee area I mentioned the French NGO Triang which is funded directly. We prefer, and I think the government understands this too, to directly finance NGOs. We also want them to work with partners. We do not want European NGOs to come here and work alone because if they do that they might have some effect in the short term, but there is no sustainability. So whichever field they are in, whether it is building water supplies and refugee camps or wither is cooperating on something of the nature you just mentioned we absolutely insist that they find reliable local partners, because whatever they start or are involved in starting, one of these days they are going to go away. They might have to sow a seed, but the cultivation of the plant depends on the local civil society. I am quite pleased to see civil society developing here. NGOs and civil society in general is a recent phenomenon in Yemen, I am aware of that, in all parts of the country, it is still in its fledgling state, but it seems to be taking off in a number of sectors. We do indeed support activities of the type of your project We will have to see what is possible within the framework of our special cooperation with Yemen. 
Q: Any last comments that you have? 
A: I am extremely happy with the way this mission has gone. I really am deeply touched by the reception that we have gotten from the Yemeni people whether the government officials or whether they be people you meet. We met a fisherman in one of the communities in Aden, 114 years old so I am told, a magnificent man who has struggled all his life to make a living. It was a great thing to see his community benefiting from the activities that we have helped with in that area, and this sort of thing inspires you somewhat. I am very impressed with the imagination and innovative ability of the people, very often living under extremely difficult conditions. But it gives you a lot of hope and inspiration as an outsider, as a foreigner, to see how people are able to make something of their lives when they are given a chance, and we have a host of examples of that through our development cooperation activities here. So when you see that energy, when you see that drive released through our activities, it is an inspiration and it should be an inspiration to the Yemeni people themselves. The country has fantastic potential. It is going to be a long struggle, but it is good to see that things are starting, and you leave with a positive feeling, seeing things like that at an individual level.