EU seeks stability and security in Yemen [Archives:2006/1001/Front Page]

November 23 2006

By: Glyn Goffin
SANA'A, Nov. 22 ) On the heels of the London Donors Conference, a European Commission delegation was in Sana'a to see how their $600 million donation will be used.

“Success in the reforms agenda is key to future success,” said German ambassador to Yemen, Frank Marcus Mann, mentioning the necessity of such meetings. “Such dialogue is essential for political development.”

The political dialogue was the first visit to Yemen for Leonidas Tezapsidis, head of the EU's unit for the region. He was using the trip to familiarize himself with the country as well as “take part in this important meeting following the London conference.”

Tezapsidis and the EU delegation used the meetings to address issues of common concern. Topping the list were democracy, both human and women's rights and Yemen's delay in ratifying the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute.

The EU had a delegation of observers in Yemen before, during and after the recent presidential and local elections and they are pleased with the steps the nation is taking. “We attach great importance to the elections and the whole process that day,” Tezapsidis said, adding that it was a key initiative Yemen performed itself.

The EU Election Observation Mission will present its final report in upcoming weeks with their final recommendations.

The EU is pleased that Yemen is a democracy trailblazer in the region. “In the Arab region, Yemen has made the most progress,” said the delegation's charge d'affair, Ralf Dreyer, although he pointed out that steps still must be taken.

However, the elections' success and openness give the EU optimism for the future. “We can support the democratic system and process,” Tezapsidis said, noting that it's positive to see Yemen's willingness to accept EU assistance. “The next elections can be even better than the last,” he added.

Not all subjects were addressed as positive steps – the EU was critical of human rights and especially use of the death penalty. “The EU wishes to see the death penalty abolished worldwide,” Dreyer stated, but he hopes Yemen adopts, at the minimum, protection for juveniles.

The EU recognizes that there's conflict between tribal, Islamic and state laws, but it says that even with difficulty in knowing true ages, youth must be protected. “There's an old, old rule – if in doubt, favor the accused,” Dreyer recalled.

Along with increasing women's rights, the EU says civil society must address the topic and as with all topics on the agenda, it hopes Yemen will address them properly. “We've seen determination and political will,” Tezapsidis said, “We must be optimistic.”

The key to EU involvement and interest in Yemeni affairs also impacts affairs in Europe. “Yemeni stability and security means European stability and security, despite the kilometers separating the two,” Dreyer observed.