James Moran to YT “The EIB has Included Yemen as a Potential Beneficiary of its Loans for the First time” [Archives:2001/17/Interview]
Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
James Moran, based in Jordan, and Head of European Delegation to Yemen and Jordan, visited Yemen last week and met with different government officials including the Prime Minister to discuss Yemen’s relationship with the European Union(EU) and asses how development and democratization are proceeding. He said that development policy is one of the three principal components of the EU’s external action, alongside trade policy and the political dimension. Adding, that considerable advances have been made in constructing a European Common Foreign Policy. He stressed that the EU is now the major global player in the development sphere and its over-arching aim is now to reduce poverty. Mr. Moran pointed out that financial resources from the EU budget made available to Yemen will continue to be at substantial levels. He made it clear that the European Commission (EC) will soon be allocating grants of 10 million Euro to assist Yemen’s government and private sector to join the WTO and raise competitiveness.
Yemen Times met Mr. Moran and filed the following interview. Excerpts.
Q: Could you please highlight the goal of your visit this time?
A: I visit Yemen frequently. I try to come every two or three months. The main reason to be here now, is to make contacts with the new government, as well as some of the new and continued ministers to exchange views on the EU relationship with Yemen. It is a very important relation for both sides. Secondly, it is to have some discussions about our future cooperation, because next month we will have the UN Conference in Brussels in which the EU will provide financial assistance to cover the period 2002-2004. So, that is also the focus of the visit to pick up ideas here in Yemen of how development and democratization are proceeding, alongside other related matters.
Q: What are the issues you discussed with the new PM?
A: The new government is still preparing its program and one has to wait a little bit to see what the program includes. However, there are many things we are already doing in Yemen which are in line with the government policy. We put a lot of priority on the link between trade and development in all our relationships with countries. Yemen has expressed its desire to join the WTO. We are committed to helping Yemen achieve this long and difficult process in working with the WTO. We have to wait for the program and I believe the government remains committed to these goals. We are also very keen to support initiatives in poverty. I spoke with the PM, and other ministers, about ways and means of doing this.
Q: What kind of help is being offered to Yemen to enable it to join the WTO?
A: There is a lot of technical assistance involved in this. The country has to submit a whole series of documents to the WTO. Much legislations has to be made and the laws have to be adapted. Of course, there is also a national debate which must be had. All sectors of the society should be involved in the debate. That is true for all countries that go through this process. Jordan has recently completed accession to the WTO. It is a big priority for both sides as the move goes on in the region. Saudi Arabia is in the middle of the process of attempting to join the WTO. People in Yemen see the need to be in the same club. If not, Yemen could stand to lose in the long run in terms of trade speed, policies and investments. It is now important for local and overseas investors to know that there is the security in membership to the WTO. We will be assisting Yemen in all these things, particularly in the filed of technical and human assistance.
Q: We observed a leap in the EU’s aid to Yemen after the unification. Is this stipulated by the sort of the political system in place now? If so, how does the EU see the human rights situation in Yemen?
A: I think there are two things to mention here. First of all, the amount of aid which has been provided since 1990 through the EU and European member states reached 800,000,000 euro. We at the moment have allocated 110 million euro to finance some projects. It is true as you said the amount has been increasing over the last decade. There are two things to mention to what is driving that. The first thing is that Yemen is one of the least developed countries in the world. There is a conference on least developed countries in Brussels next month in which Yemen is going to play an important part. There is a development imperative on the part of industrialized countries in Europe to do what they can to see sustainable efforts are made in the reduction of poverty in these countries. Another thing about Yemen is the progress it is making in democratization and modernization. We believe sustainable development is not achievable unless attention is paid to these aspects. Yemen’s drive in this direction in the Arabian Peninsula is recognized worldwide. You have had four national elections in the last nine years. We and the donor countries have been assisting to make the electoral system better and other logistical problems you have in this regard. We are impressed by the progress that has been made and the participation of people in this process.
Q: You said you are impressed by what Yemen has done. However, we find the amount of aid to Jordan is bigger than Yemen’s. On what basis do you offer aid to countries?
A: I am not going to compare the two countries in terms of democratization. I think it would be wrong to do so. They are Arab countries but they are different with different problems. I must say that Jordan has made enormous strides in terms of modernization and democratization. It has taken good steps towards joining the WTO in terms of legislation, which has been reformed in the last four years to meet the requirements of the WTO. It has also been doing fine with economic reforms. However, we can not talk about Jordan without talking about the situation in the Middle East. We in Europe consider this a top priority for foreign policy. Jordan has been essentially a part of this. Stability in that country is a major preoccupation to us in Europe.
Q: Does this mean Yemen is not still a strong partner of Europe?
A: No it does not. Yemen is a very important partner for the EU. But the terms of our partnership in Yemen are a little bit different from those in the Mediterranean region. Yemen has special considerations for development.
Q: What about the trade exchange between Yemen and EU?
A: The EU has offered the least developed countries opportunities in this regard. Everything in Europe is open and the challenges are how best Yemen is to take the advantage of these opportunities. The markets here have developed to some extent, but perhaps not to the extent needed to take advantage of the European market in terms of quality and competitiveness of the product. Competitiveness and efficiency are very important and we would like to assist the country , particularly the private sector in this respect.
Q: How about the EU’s loans to Yemen?
A: It is important to mention that it is the first time the European Investment Bank (EIB) included Yemen as a potential beneficiary of its loans . This is a good step which was not possible until last year. What is important again is to identify bankable, visible projects that will attract the idea into the country and invest. We and the EC are doing all we can to help Yemen achieve this and that will be the challenge in the next few years.
Q: How does the EU look at the ongoing conflict in the Middle East?
A: It is important to understand that Europe and its role in the conflict in the Middle East has been very important in the last few years. We have always been the biggest payer and the Palestinian authority has been a major beneficiary from Europe over the last several years. In fact, the vast majority of external financing to the authority has been Europe. That has been even more the case in the last four months as the tragedy has unfolded in al-Aqsa. We have allocated more than 7 million euros in special grants to the Palestinians during this period. We are the only international entity to have done that. We were happy to hear about the Intifada Fund and we are looking to work with it to support the Palestinians. But, this is not enough. The situation in Palestine is bad and getting worse. But it has been made even more complicated by the economic situation.
The other thing I would like to say is that Europe is taking a step forward and is in a strong position so far as aggression is concerned in the Middle East. I want to bring to your attention the declaration that was made recently by the EU presidency in which we said the Israeli attack on Syrian objectives in Lebanon as a retaliation for the Hizbullah attacks on the Shebaa farms was an excessive and disproportionate reply. It is a tragedy the Palestinian people are suffering and we must find a way out of these problems, and it must be done in a balanced and just way. Europe is playing an important role in pressing the partners and Israelis working with Palestinians to try to do that.