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Interview with H.E. the Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Fawwaz Al-Eitan

 

DIPLOMATIC PROFILE

 

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“Throughout history, Jordan has proved its ability to maintain stability in the region, regardless of the nature of the crises experienced by the region. Jordan has consolidated significant economic reforms and followed through with inclusive, political change.

Yet, as Jordan moves forward, the country is living through a refugee influx at crisis levels. This crisis comes with a hefty price tag; one that Jordan alone cannot afford to shoulder without more support from the international community.”

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GDL: Jordan has consistently followed a pro-western foreign policy during the last decades. What are the main aspects of Jordan’s regional foreign policy?

FAE: Decades of robust regional and international engagement have made Jordan one of the most stable, secure and prosperous countries in the region. It is from this position of strength that Jordan has advanced its own development to become a highly globalised country. Today, the pursuit of peace in the region and beyond – a hallmark of Hashemite leadership – is the cornerstone of His Majesty King Abdullah II’s foreign policy, which is based on cooperation and trust building with the international community.

We believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict is a major impediment to progress in the region to the pursuit of a better life and to the creation of opportunities.

In Syria, an end to violence ultimately demands a political process, by a unified global vision and led by all components of the Syrian people. Jordan pursues a continuing coordination with friends against terrorism.

flag_and_map_of_jordanGDL: Within the context of the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy, both the EU and Jordan have jointly adopted an Action Plan to reinforce their political and economic interdependence. What has been achieved so far?

FAE: The First EU-Jordan Action Plan was adopted in June 2005 in order to contribute to developing bilateral relations by opening the doors to several EU initiatives. In October 2010, the EU-Jordan Association Council agreed upon an “advanced status” partnership. A new EU-Jordan Action Plan was subsequently adopted in October 2012.

The Action Plan was developed to further deepen and broaden EU-Jordan relations through intensified political dialogue. This dialogue includes a number of areas, such as: democracy and the Rule of Law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, cooperation on foreign and security policy, conflict prevention and crisis management, economic and social reforms, trade related issues, market and regulatory reform, etc.

We can say that we have achieved important progress on the previous issues. Jordan and the EU keep a regular dialogue and there is a convergence of views in many issues.

In addition to that, Jordan and the EU signed a Mobility Partnership in October 2014 to manage mobility and migration. Negotiations are continuing on a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. On July 19th, at the EU-Jordan Association Committee, a joint decision temporarily simplifying the Rules of Origin between Jordan and the EU was taken. This decision expires on December 31st 2026.

 

“I believe that, the refugee crisis remains a humanitarian disaster and it is proving to be an increasing threat to global security, development and economic growth. Today we are hosting 1.4 million Syrians. The economic and social impact has shocked every sector. We are spending a quarter of our national budget on refugee-related costs. The meagre international support to help the Kingdom carry the burden of hosting Syrians, threatens to undermine the outcomes of the country’s developmental and economic process and its ability to provide services to the refugees. The international community must help Jordan in hosting these refugees and in carrying this burden on behalf of the international community.”

 

GDL: Five years of regional volatility have put in danger Jordan’s remarkable resilience and stability. How do you cope with the current situation?

FAE: Credibility and the balanced positions of Jordan, led by His Majesty the King, Abdullah II, on regional crises and issues of global nature, have made Jordan a voice of reason.

So, I think that throughout history over the decades, Jordan has proved its ability to maintain stability in the region, regardless of the nature of the crises experienced by the region. Jordan has consolidated significant economic reforms and followed through with inclusive, political change. Yet, as Jordan moves forward, our country is living through a refugee influx at crisis levels. This crisis comes with a hefty price tag; one that Jordan alone cannot afford to shoulder without more support from the international community.

GDL: What steps need to be taken together with the international community to guarantee Jordan’s integrity and security?

FAE: I believe that, the refugee crisis remains a humanitarian disaster and it is proving to be an increasing threat to global security, development and economic growth. Today we are hosting 1.4 million Syrians. The economic and social impact has affected every sector. We are spending a quarter of our national budget on refugee-related costs. The meagre international support to help the Kingdom carry the burden of hosting Syrians, threatens to undermine the outcomes of the country’s developmental and economic process and its ability to provide services to the refugees. The community must help Jordan in hosting these refugees and in carrying this burden on behalf of the international community. The international aid to Jordan covers only one third of the real cost for hosting refugees.

In addition to that, we can consider that counter terrorism is one of Jordan’s most important priorities. We support all efforts exerted by the international community to fight terrorism and to prevent terrorist groups from having a strong foothold, especially in Middle East.

I have to mention that, since the first day, ISIS and its likes appeared, His Majesty King Abdullah II stressed that “this is going to be a military and ideological war that will be long and requires cooperation and coordination within a holistic approach to eliminate these gangs and prevent their expansion and future resurgence”.  Therefore there should be a comprehensive ideological, political and social strategy to protect our communities against radicalism and terrorism.

 

“We consider that counter terrorism is one of Jordan’s most important priorities… there should be a comprehensive ideological, political and social strategy to protect our communities against radicalism and terrorism.”

 

GDL: In a region tormented with instability, the relative calm in Jordan provides an undeniable appeal for investors. Nevertheless, you are facing several persistent economic challenges, like job creation and huge energy expenditure. Can you tell us more about your Government’s economic policy?

FAE: Despite a number of external and internal threats, Jordan has remained a peaceful country. Since the so-called Arab Spring of 2011, Jordan has maintained continuous stability, moderation and security in a region prone to potential volatility.

The Jordanian Government will continue its monetary policy and the introduction of further economic, financial and legal reforms, liberalise the Jordanian economy and streamline business practices across every sector to attract innovation and capital. The Government will work towards attracting investments, in addition to exerting efforts to open up new markets for Jordanian products, sign new trade deals and activate the current ones that have not yet been enforced, particularly among Arab states.

In addition to that, the Government has already prepared the Jordan Investment Fund By Law and is in the final stages of forming an investment company under this law which allows sovereign funds and Arab and foreign institutions to establish a shareholding company to invest in development projects in the Kingdom.

Moreover, the Government is mulling over measures to establish partnerships with the private sector in new fields, such as leasing cars for Government use (instead of purchasing and owning cars), and building infrastructure projects, in order to reduce expenditures and increase revenues.

Last year, we launched ‘Jordan 2025’, the 10-year blueprint for economic and social development. The plan, also dubbed ‘2025 vision’, is based on two scenarios, a conservative one that assumes that the economy would grow by 4.8% in 10 years, and an ambitious scenario that suggests the economy would expand by 7.5% in 2025.

 

“Last year, we launched ‘Jordan 2025’, the 10-year blueprint for economic and social development. The plan, also dubbed ‘2025 vision’, is based on two scenarios, a conservative one that assumes that the economy would grow by 4.8% in 10 years, and an ambitious scenario that suggests the economy would expand by 7.5% in 2025.”

 

GDL: Is Jordan’s newly-elected Parliament capable of ensuring greater security and prosperity for all Jordanians and implement deeper political and economic reforms?

FAE: General elections were held in Jordan on September 20th 2016 to elect the 18th Lower House of Parliament. Following electoral reforms announced in 2015, these elections were the first since 1989 to be held primarily under a form of proportional representation; intervening elections were held under the “one-man one-vote” system. The elections were run by the Independent Electoral Commission and were overseen by a huge number of international observers.

This Parliament will face a huge number of challenges, but we cannot move forward unless we have the will to overcome them. In Jordan we all believe that Parliament will overcome all of these challenges and will achieve an important progress in the field of political and economic reforms.

flag-pins-jordan-greeceGDL: Mr. Ambassador, can you tell us about the level of bilateral cooperation between Jordan and Greece?

FAE: Jordan and Greece share a long history of harmonious cooperation at bilateral level. The two countries subscribe to the same policy of good neighbourliness in the sensitive region of the Middle East and East Mediterranean and share a belief in the Rule of International Law and the need to seek peaceful solutions to disputes on the basis of UN Resolutions.

Despite this, I believe that there is a need to expand upon our bilateral cooperation and to benefit from the opportunities available in the two countries to boost economic cooperation and trade exchange, especially in light of the various incentives that Jordan offers to business representatives and the country’s distinguished geographic location.

 

“I consider Greece my second home. I have spent a long period of my life in this lovely country and have had the chance to visit most of the beautiful and interesting places around Greece; in each part I felt the incredible feeling of greatness of the history and civilization of this country.”

 

GDL: How can both countries seize upon the excellent level of cultural relations and bring our people closer together?

FAE: Actually, this is a very important question. I firmly believe that we have to increase cooperation in this field.

In fact we have a Cultural Exchange Agreement between the two countries, which was signed for the first time in 1976 and subsequently renewed every two years. Both countries offer a number of scholarship and exchange programmes, but we are looking forward to improving upon this and raising the number of those scholarships from both sides. We also have a few Jordanian military cadets studying at Greek military academies. In my opinion, I believe that students represent their countries as Ambassadors.

GDL: Your Excellency, you are no stranger to Greece, after you lived here as a student and served as a diplomat later. What were your sentiments upon returning here as an Ambassador and how has your experiences and knowledge of the Greek people, culture and language aided you in your post?

FAE: Actually, I consider Greece my second home. I have spent a long period of my life in this lovely country and have had the chance to visit most of the beautiful and interesting places around Greece; in each part I felt the incredible feeling of greatness of the history and civilization of this country.

The best memories are firmly etched in my mind, as well as the real friendships that I have been fortunate to have made, many of which still continue to this day. Some of those friends have become figures in the political, social, economic and academic fields.

Finally, due to the Greek people and Government will, I am confident that Greece will overpass through the economic crisis successfully. Thank You.

 

Interview by Nicolas Boutsicos
Editor, Greek Diplomatic Life

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