Yemen’s ambassador to EU EU enlargement will help EU – Yemen relations: Jaffer [Archives:2004/734/Reportage]

May 3 2004

The long-awaited enlargement of the European Union took place last Wednesday, signaling a historic occassion for European people. On this occasion, Yemen Times met with Dr. Jaffer Hamed Mohammed Jaffer, the Ambassador of Yemen to the EU in his office in Brussels, Belgium.
Dr. Jaffer was appointed as the ambassador to Belgium and the EU, making him the first Yemeni diplomat to be concerned with the EU's enlargement and its consequences on the relations to Yemen.
On the issue of EU-Yemen relations, Dr. Jaffer said that they are indeed growing and enhancing by the day. “Those relations had started in the commercial aspect since the 1980s. After the formation of the 15-member EU, aid and cooperation had also increased and broadened,” he said
“The EU allocated significant amounts of money for social and economic projects in the country, and has pledged to continue this support in the future.”
“Every year, negotiations between Yemen and the EU take place, alternately in Sanaa and Brussels. The last discussions were held in Sanaa in October 2003.”

Important development
Dr. Jaffer said that in 18 December 2003, a breakthrough agreement was reached and signed. He signed on behalf of Yemen to allow the EU to have a prominent commission delegation in Sana'a. In other words, this signals full diplomatic representation of the EU in Sanaa, just like any other embassy.
This is indeed a huge development, especially in accelerating decision making procedures on the spot and easing bureaucratic procedures to enable quicker response to project proposals and cooperation initiatives.
The other important development concerning EU-Yemen relations, is the ongoing work in establishing a committee for political dialogue, which will give relations a boost because it broadens the prospective of relations to include political aspects too.
This initiative has come after Yemen worked thoroughly to find a role in the Barcelona process, in which Yemen is not included and wasn't accepted due to geographical reasons.
The Barcelona process is confined to the countries south of Mediterranean Sea. Other non-Mediterranean Arab countries also have special privileges including countries such as Sudan and Djibouti in the context of African and Atlantic perspectives. The Gulf Cooperation Council also has special relations with the EU. This eventually puts Yemen in an isolated position with no real frame for multilateral relations with the EU.
But following extensive efforts, we have come to agree initially on establishing the said committee for political dialogue, and have also agreed on holding its first meeting in July 2004 in Brussels.
Meanwhile, EU officials have also expressed their satisfaction and apperciatiion to Yemen for its positive role in fighting terrorism, developing human rights and democracy, and economic developmental reforms. The EU is also encouraged to see that we in Yemen are working to achieve social reforms such as enabling Yemeni women to participate in politics as we have female ministers, female ambassadors, and female activists. This what makes Yemen unique in this regard in the region.

Yemen's presence in the EU needs care
On Yemeni presence in the EU, the ambassador stressed that just as the EU has now enlarged and is composed of 25 countries with a total population exceeding 400 million people, it is quite important to have stronger presence and more activities of Yemen in Brussels.
“I need to focus here on the element of quality more than quantity. What we need right now in our embassy is more qualified Yemeni staffers more than anything else. As we can imagine, there will be more potentials for cooperation and expansion of relations with the EU and its individual member states, which in turn makes it quite demanding to have qualified team workers in all social, economic, logistic, research, public relations, and media fields.
This conforms to President Saleh's orders in taking care of the diplomatic sector and placing the right person in the right post.
For example, there are some Yemenis working in foreign embassies, who could be more useful working in Yemeni embassies in other Arab countries as they don't have a second language. It is not preferred to have a Yemeni diplomat with no foreign tongue (English, French, German, etc.) work in a European country, as this will not only affect the embassy's productivity and relations, but will also be unjust to the diplomat, who could have unveiled his potentials if he would have been posted in an Arab country and could potentially be frustrated.
On the other hand, as you have noted, the EU enlargement is also of major development which will result in greater demand for hard work and dedication to diplomatic work to produce more and use the opportunities available. With 10 more countries added to the current 15, and taking into account the fact that our embassy is concerned with Luxemburg too, this will require us to exert greater efforts and work closely with 25 countries. This is why it is important that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs looks into this issue with great importance and concern and provides our embassy with qualified and skilled Yemeni staffers, who will be the pillar of our mission in Brussels.

Financial difficulties in our embassy in Brussels
As for the obstacles that hinder the work of the Yemeni embassy in Brussels, Dr. Jaffer said that despite the fact of enlargement of the EU and strengthening EU-Yemen relations, the embassy suffers from financial shortages in its budget. “I know that other embassies suffer too, but our case is even more severe as the budget is lower than most other embassies throughout the world, including Yemeni embassies in neighboring countries. This is ironic because greater attention must be paid to our embassy as it represents Yemen in the largest block of countries in the world, yet it is getting the least of attention.
Furthermore, the fall of the USD versus the Euro has also led to extra financial burdens up to 20% due to the fact that our central government in Sana'a still uses the US dollar for its foreign transactions, resulting in deficits in our budget as we have to change the dollars to Euros to pay our staffers, especially European staffers, causing tremendous losses.
This financial shortage has direct implications on the level of productivity and work we can achieve in the embassy. In other words, if the financial aspect is not improved, we will remain confined to fewer activities and less productive staffers, which will ultimately result in waste of potentials and possible contribution to EU-Yemen relations.
EU support to Yemen on the rise
In a final remark, Dr. Jaffer said that the EU has been obviously keen to support Human Rights and democracy in Yemen, and that was quite evident in the co-organization of the EU of the last regional conference on human rights and democracy held a few months ago in Sanaa by the Yemeni government in cooperation with the organization “No Peace Without Justice”.
“I must note that the European parliament has praised the Yemeni government for coming up with the Sanaa Declaration that concluded the conference, in which Yemen pledged to continue its efforts in supporting freedom and human rights. The conference was said to conform to the strategy of the EU in Yemen and the region, and we are now closely following up on this issue with our EU counterparts. I also believe that EU support to Yemen is on the rise.”