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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

EU assures Jordan of continued aid

Federica Mogherini says EU is providing €1bn over three years to ally 

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on June 10, 2018. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on June 10, 2018. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

The European Union assured Jordan of continued financial support on Sunday, saying it was an investment in an ally in the "most heated and difficult area of the world".

The EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini made the pledge during a visit to Jordan days after the country's prime minister quit amid widespread protests against a government austerity plan sought by international lenders, including proposed tax increases. The new prime minister says he will scrap the tax plan and devise a new one.

Jordan is increasingly in debt and dependent on foreign aid at a time of economic downturn and growing unemployment, largely linked to regional crises. Jordan has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in recent years, while trade with troubled neighbours has been disrupted.

The promise of support from the EU came as Arab Gulf leaders and Jordan's King Abdullah II gathered in Makkah to discuss ways to help his counry.

Ms Mogherini said the European Union has given Jordan €1 billion (Dh4.32bn) over three years to finance programmes in infrastructure, water, energy and education.

Speaking at a news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Sunday, she also announced that the EU would provide €20 million towards social protection programmes for vulnerable Jordanians.

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Jordan can count on Europe, Ms Mogherini said.

"We are here not as a gesture of charity, if you allow me the expression, but as an investment," she said, adding that Jordan was located "in probably the most heated and difficult area of the world".

"We understand the needs," she said. "We understand the pressure, the urgency, and so we deliver our support."

The EU foreign policy chief said it was up to Jordan to devise its own reform programme, but stressed the importance of dealing with tax evasion. The new prime minister, Omar Al Razzaz, has promised to formulate a new tax plan in consultation with various groups in Jordan.

Later on Sunday, Saudi Arabia was to host a meeting of Gulf Arab countries to discuss ways to support Jordan. The Saudi royal court said the meeting in Makkah would include Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan and Kuwait.

In December 2011, the Gulf Cooperation Council pledged to give $2.5bn (Dh9.2bn) in aid each to Jordan and Morocco, both of which had been invited to join the regional group that year.

The pledge from the GCC was to last five years. It expired last year and so far the GCC has yet to offer any additional funding as the bloc remains split by the diplomatic crisis over Qatar.

Mr Safadi said on Sunday that Jordan appreciated the Saudi effort and that "we look forward to the results of today's dialogue". He did not address the issue of Gulf aid.

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