EU official: UAE is an important international partner, a key player in development aid in the Gulf region

By: Rasha Abubaker

ABU DHABI: During his first visit to the country, to discuss bilateral and regional cooperation between the European Union and the UAE, Dr. Marcus Cornaro, Deputy Director General, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid (DEVCO), European Commission, today said that the UAE is a key player and a pioneer in development aid in the Gulf region.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with WAM, Dr. Cornaro said that both the EU and UAE have shared responsibility in combating poverty, helping social and economic development of partner countries, and in achieving global challenges such as the Millennium Development Goals, and that he hopes to reinforce further collaboration between the two sides, which he says share mutual goals.

“I hope this is a pivotal moment in reinforced, practical cooperation. There is a need to have a strong emerging Arab donor as partner,” said Dr. Cornaro.

“From the discussions already held I see that we are developing a lot of similar concepts, and it’s something where we can reach mutually both in the analysis and the type of solutions we want to propose,” he added.

The Deputy Director General said that the EU and the UAE also share common interests in ensuring stability in the region. “The UAE has been increasingly active on the regional and global scene, proving to be a solid and reliable partner for the EU in several fields, such as counter-terrorism, energy, environment, climate change, non-proliferation, etc.,” he said.

EU-UAE collaborations will encompass a wide range of programmes, including infrastructure, food security, water and energy. Projects will also aim at reinforcing development policies, and providing aid to countries in South East and Eastern Europe, South Mediterranean, Sahel and Sub-Sahara Africa, the Arab Peninsula and Near Asia, as well as joined efforts to counterterrorism.

The two sides’ cooperation on counterterrorism has progressed considerably in recent years, particularly following the agreement to hold annual political dialogues on the subject.

The UAE also hosts the Hedayah CVE Centre, Countering Violent Extremism to which the EU is one of eight board members.

Hedayah, the first-ever International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), was inaugurated in 2011, with its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Speaking about the European Union’s efforts to fight extremism, Dr. Cornaro said that the EU is donating 5 million Euros to UAE-based, Hedayah, to help the organisation in its efforts to fight extremism through its wide reaching network. The contribution aims to allow Hedayah fund social, non-governmental organisations to communicate, spread awareness, provide better analysis, and reach out to youth.

“Hedayah coincides with preparations for EXPO 2020 in Dubai, a great exhibition showcasing different ways of how to communicate around radical extremism and radical ideology. We are contributing 5 million Euros towards this cause, which demonstrates very well the fact that we do find this is a very timely and good initiative. For us, this is a very interesting angle on reinforcing cooperation with the UAE around that, to reach out from a centre based in a country like the UAE and to the world at large,” he said.

Dr. Cornaro went on to say that he looks forward to the possibility to team up with the Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, the UAE Development Fund and also other Gulf countries, in the future.

Speaking on the EU future plans in the UAE, Dr. Cornaro announced that the organisation plans to boost its presence in the country.

“I would like to say that I am very pleased that we are increasing the build on the EU delegation here in Abu Dhabi. Where we have a commitment to reinforce its capacity and combine a stronger presence here on the ground, allowing for constant interactions with partners, and an increased commitment from headquarters.

The EU opened a mission to the United Arab Emirates in the second half of 2013. UAE is the EU’s 14th largest trade partner and the EU is the UAE’s 2nd trading partner and 8th biggest export partner. The UAE also hosts 22 EU Member States Embassies, and over 1.6 million EU visitors travel to the UAE every year. More than 150.000 EU citizens are permanent residents in the UAE bringing expertise and a specialised input to further spur economic growth and diversification.

“The establishment of an EU mission in Abu Dhabi is a testimony of the EU’s commitment to strengthen its bilateral cooperation with the UAE,” the Deputy Director General concluded.