Federica Mogherini

BRUSSELS: European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini yesterday lauded Kuwait as a ‘voice of wisdom’ and a ‘force for peace’ in these difficult times for the region. “And this is what has made us natural partners. This new European Delegation is first and foremost a sign of how close the European Union and Kuwait have become. By opening our new delegation, we want to strengthen our relation with Kuwait even further, as part of our engagement in this region,” she said in an interview ahead of her visit to Kuwait to open an EU embassy there.

“You have taken up the role of the mediator and the peace builder, and this required a lot of courage. We appreciate the constructive role Kuwait is playing within the Gulf Cooperation Council through its continuous mediation at the highest level. Your country has worked and is working to end the war in Yemen, and you have demonstrated your commitment to multilateralism as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2018-2019,” she said.

The EU’s foreign policy chief noted that on each one of these challenges – from the war in Yemen to tensions in the Gulf – the European Union and Kuwait have been working side by side. “Together we co-chaired the conference for the reconstruction of Iraq, we contributed to saving UNRWA in its funding crisis, and we have been among the strongest supporters of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, or of children in Yemen,” she said.

The highly-respectable EU High Representative recalled that three years ago we signed a cooperation arrangement between our foreign services. “And now, by establishing a full diplomatic presence in Kuwait City, we are opening a new chapter in our partnership. The aim is to further strengthen our political dialogue as well as our economic cooperation, in particular in support of Kuwait’s ‘Vision 2035,'” she stressed.

“Our cooperation already focuses on energy, trade and investment, security and counterterrorism, and we are working on extending our dialogue to other fields, in particular education, research and innovation. The new delegation will also aim to build bridges between the Kuwaiti society and European citizens,” she stated.

EU’s third delegation

Mogherini pointed out that this is the EU’s third delegation in the GCC countries, following those in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates. “So this is also a message to the whole region: the European Union cares about the Middle East and the Gulf. We care about peace, security and human development in this part of the world, because we are neighbors. It is essential to invest in our ties, and to explore every opportunity for cooperation when our interests and values converge,” she stressed.

Referring to relations between the EU and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), she said the partnership between the two blocs is one of the oldest in the region, and cooperation has continued whenever possible, in spite of all the tensions within the Council. “We believe that regional cooperation is crucial to prevent new escalations and to address controversies in a peaceful way. We have learnt it through decades of European cooperation, which ended centuries of wars on our continent,” she said.

“The polarization generated by divisions within the GCC affects negatively the situation in the region and beyond. This is why we continue to support negotiated solutions in the Gulf. As soon as Kuwait started its mediation, we threw all our political support behind your work to create a breathing space for regional détente,” said the EU High Representative. “I was in Kuwait already in the summer of 2017, to meet His Highness the Amir and discuss how we could be of help.

And we will continue to support your role as a mediator and a voice of wisdom in the region,” she said. Commenting on EU-Arab ties, she said “Europeans and Arabs are more than just neighbors. We share so much history and culture. The Mediterranean Sea has always connected our people more than it divided us. We share the same space: whatever happens in the Arab world has an impact on Europe, and vice versa.”

“The European Union is among the top investors in the Arab world, and we are the main trade partner. Our young people share many of the same aspirations – to better opportunities, to better jobs, to finding their place in our societies. I have always believed that Euro-Arab cooperation holds the key to address these common challenges.

Together we can better address the crises in our region. Together we can create the opportunities for human growth that our people are asking for,” said Mogherini. “Our region stands at a crossroads – between more conflict, and the possibility of reconciliation. If you think of Syria, Yemen, Israel and Palestine, Libya – all crises that could evolve either way, depending on our individual and collective response,” she said.

More cooperative dynamics

“As I see glimmers of hope, power confrontation in the Middle East and North Africa could bring new violence and new suffering to our region. Rising tensions in the Gulf could trigger a new arms race. Confrontation among regional powers is spreading: I think for instance of the Horn of Africa. It is urgent to invest all our energies in preventing new escalations, and in planting the seeds for a more cooperative regional dynamics,” said Mogherini.

“And for doing so, Europe needs to engage further with the Arab world. This is what we have tried to do in these years. No one has invested as much as we did to address our region’s humanitarian emergencies, from Syria to Yemen. We have supported UN-led peace talks all across the region,” she said.

Mogherini noted that the EU has accompanied Tunisia on its transition to democracy, hosted three Syria Conferences, created the Quartet for Libya, and we have been unwavering in supporting a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel. “This year we held the first-ever summit between the EU and the League of Arab States.

The Arab region was the only one with which the European Union never had a summit before – and this was a huge paradox. We have a duty to cooperate, to address the crises of our times and to fulfill our citizens’ aspirations. To me, this should be the natural trajectory of our partnership. And I am glad that we have found in Kuwait such a close partner and friend,” added Mogherini. – KUNA