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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

UAE and EU to co-operate on post-conflict reconstruction in Mena

The EU and UAE have already partnered on efforts to combat organised crime, terrorism, fraud and maritime piracy

The Ambassador of the EU delegation in Abu Dhabi, Patrizio Fondi. Reem Mohammed / The National
The Ambassador of the EU delegation in Abu Dhabi, Patrizio Fondi. Reem Mohammed / The National

The European Union plans to strengthen co-operation with the UAE on post-conflict reconstruction and humanitarian aid in the Middle East and Africa.

“What (we) want to develop a lot, is cooperation in humanitarian aid especially in North Africa and Horn of Africa. Where the presence of the gulf states is quite strong,” said Patrizio Fondi, EU ambassador to the UAE.

The EU and UAE have already partnered on efforts to combat organised crime, terrorism, fraud and maritime piracy.

“But these are the things that we have done so far in the UAE, and there are still many things in the pipeline,” Mr Fondi said.

The new initiatives would deepen existing diplomatic, security and trade ties. The EU is already the UAE’s largest trade partner, with total trade between the two amounting to 55 billion euros (Dh238 bn) in 2016.

“We see our co-operation as more and more relevant to alleviate the suffering of people in the region,” he said. “For example, Somalia, we can have cooperation to strengthen capacity in that country.”

This could include anti-terror training for security forces and improving the professionalism of the police.

“And more importantly, the judicial system, people should trust the state; if (you) have good judges and a good judicial system, it is crucial,” Mr Fondi said.

This plan could expand in the coming years to include countries like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, once their conflicts are resolved.

“So we can have some co-operation in Iraq and Syria, to (rebuild) the state, and I think the UAE is very ready, they are already involved in many of these crises very actively; they have been in Libya. In Yemen they are on the ground… so UAE is a key player, and it is very important to cooperate with them,” Mr Fondi said.

The EU Delegation to the UAE was established in Abu Dhabi in late 2013, while other states in the region are managed through their Riyadh mission. This underlined the strategic importance of the UAE to the EU, said Mr Fondi. “If we want to develop a special relationship in the UAE, we need an office here; so the message was very clear and the process was very quick to do that, no thinking, just ‘let’s do it’.”

Existing joint projects include the Hedayah Center – an independent international “think and do tank” based in Abu Dhabi that focuses on countering violent extremism.

Also established in the capital, Strive, aims at building the capacities of state and non-state actors to counter radicalisation and terror recruiters. The EU has pumped Dh22 million into the project, and according to Mr Fondi, it has witnessed encouraging results in Central Asia and the Western Balkans.

The delegation is planning an exhibition at Manarat Al Saadiyat next May that showcases the long relationship between Europe and the UAE since the days of the UAE’s late founder Sheikh Zayed.

“Our message to the region is always of cooperation and peace, and an example is this exhibition; we want to give the picture of how the EU leaders and Sheikh Zayed cooperated for this part of the region since the 1950s, even before the creation of this country.”