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Debates
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

8. Formal sitting - Jordan
Video of the speeches
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  President. – Your Majesty, on behalf of all the Members of the European Parliament, I would like to very warmly welcome you here to Strasbourg. It is clearly a great honour for us that you are visiting the European Parliament for a third time today. In so doing, you are showing us your friendship and your trust.

Your Majesty, a little over a year ago, the Arab Spring began in a mood of great hope. The desire for democracy, social justice, the rule of law and freedom of opinion proved itself, once again, to be a universal desire. Your Majesty, unlike others, you decided to listen to the calls of the Jordanian people. You have put your country on the road to political and economic reforms. We, the popular representatives of the people of Europe, would like to act as a friend and partner to the Jordanian people during this transformation phase. We will stand by you both in your profound economic reforms and in the true opening up of politics in your country.

In your address to the Jordanian people on 12 June of last year, you advocated the advent of parliamentary elections, with the participation of representative and active parties, from which a government is to be formed on the basis of the parliamentary majority. We welcome the fact that you have so clearly come out in favour of the principles of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. That will act as a bulwark against desperation, against disappointment, against extremism and against violence.

Naturally, your speech raised major expectations among the citizens of your country. As friends and partners, we will support you in following up your words with action and fulfilling your promise of reform. For Europe, Jordan is a country with which we feel a deep bond of friendship. Your personal commitment – in the last few weeks – to mediate between the Israelis and the Palestinians, to bring both sides back to the negotiating table, gave concrete expression to our belief that, in you, we have a comrade in arms in the struggle for diplomacy and democracy, for peace and for freedom.

Your Majesty, we look forward to your address!

(Applause)

 
  
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  Abdullah II, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. – Mr President, distinguished Members of the European Parliament, thank you all for your warm welcome. The ties between Jordan and Europe are anchored in rock. It is more than our mutual interest in the prosperity and security of our multi-regional neighbourhood. It is our shared belief in the kind of neighbourhood it should be – the kind of neighbourhood our people deserve, rich in human dignity and freedom, powered by opportunity and progress, and secured by peace. It is to talk about our neighbourhood and future that I join you today.

My friends, a long spring is unfolding in the Arab world. It will not be over in a season, not even in a year. Our societies are facing the challenge of moving from protests to programmes, from criticism to national strategies. Different countries will take different paths. In some countries, debate and consensus are in the air. Elsewhere, we are seeing the winds of division and reaction, bringing instability, violence and a region-wide cost. There are outside actors that seek to take advantage of discord. The risks and uncertainties are real.

But I speak for millions when I say the Arab world is awake, and positive challenge is on the move. The signs were already there for those who wanted to see them. For a decade or more, people across the region have been raising questions, nurturing aspirations, seeking meaningful reform and empowering civil society, especially women and our digitally-connected, globally-aware youth.

Events added to the urgency. Global crises in finance, food and energy seriously hurt our economies. Arab families who sacrificed to educate their children have seen their sons and daughters leave school, prepared for jobs that simply are not there. Today, my region faces the highest youth unemployment of any region. Some have called it a ‘generation in waiting’. It is 100 million strong, the largest youth cohort in our history. I know that youth concerns are important here in Europe as well. Our regions have different demographics, but in one statistic, they are the same: today’s young people are 100% of our future and we cannot afford to let a single young citizen wait in vain.

This reality drives Jordan’s approach to the Arab Spring. We have embraced it as an opportunity to push past road blocks that have slowed reform in the past. And last year, we took immediate steps to engage in a national dialogue to build consensus on concrete actions. An early focus has been the constitution, the foundation of our political system. Last September, after recommendations by a national committee, one third of the entire document was amended: new constitutional provisions, wider representation, strengthened political parties, protection of civil rights and freedoms, an enhanced separation of powers.

Other milestones include new laws on political parties and municipal and national elections as well as legislation for the new constitutional court and independent elections commission, and our next tests will be municipal and parliamentary elections. As guarantor of the political reform process, I have urged both government and parliament to keep to the agreed timeline and finalise the remaining legislation as quickly as possible, without sacrificing the inclusive nature of our process.

Only we, all Jordanians, can build Jordan’s future, and we must do so in such a way that our country remains a secure, safe haven in spite of a region becoming more turbulent around us, in spite of economic threats, in spite of neighbouring crises. This path demands consensus-based reform, based on structural, comprehensive change – political, legal, economic and social – respecting the rights and freedoms of all our citizens. In the process, Jordan can set a regional model of peaceful political evolution and democratisation.

I am confident that 2012 will be a year of key political reform in Jordan. Among the most important steps is building the robust political party life that parliamentary government requires. We know that it is not one election but the next and the next and all those that follow which show that a system is working.

We greatly value the EU’s recognition of our reform path. Just two months ago, the new EU-Jordan Task Force met in Amman to discuss key programmes which will support our reform priorities: democratic institutions, civil society, job creation, local economic development, human assistance and more. Next month marks ten years since our association agreement went into force, opening markets and job opportunities on both sides. I hope these opportunities, now strengthened by our advanced status partnership, will further blossom in the years ahead.

Jordan has pursued its domestic goals despite regional conflict but, my friends, peace must come if our region is to thrive and be secure. We cannot afford one more generation in waiting for a Palestinian state.

(Applause)

Ten years ago, the Arab states spoke in a united voice on behalf of a just peace. We made the decision to look forward, not back; to seek agreement and to offer acceptance. The Arab Peace Initiative has been recognised by every major friend of peace in the world, including the EU and other members of the Quartet. We need Israel to engage.

The Arab Peace Initiative is based on the only possible solution: two states, side by side, in dignity and self-determination – a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital …

(Applause)

and collective peace and security guarantees for Israel …

(Applause)

and a final settlement in accordance with UN resolutions, and the agreed resolution of all final status issues. This initiative went even beyond offering Israel peace and normal relations with all its Arab neighbours. The entire Muslim world endorsed it. What has been on the table for the past ten years is a 57-state solution.

Some political elements point to the change in the Arab world and tell the Israeli people that negotiations can wait. There is no time to wait. The Arab Spring is rooted in a profound call for human respect. No affront is felt more deeply than the Israeli occupation. The longer Palestinian suffering endures, the longer settlement-building continues, the greater the frustrations, dangers and unknowns. If we cross the line where the two-state solution is no longer possible, Israel will be further than ever from real security and it would take decades, even generations, for peace to regain the initiative.

Jordan sees an effective peace process as a moral duty and a strategic interest, and we continue to pursue results. This year in Amman, we succeeded in getting negotiators back to the table several times. We would not have been able to do so without the magnificent work of European diplomacy, energising contacts, mobilising support, keeping up the pressure for peace and, most important, keeping hope alive. Indeed, over the past two years, the European Union has been an invaluable friend to those on both sides working for peace in the Middle East.

The exploratory talks in Amman were baby steps, giving the parties an opportunity to resume bilateral contacts. Now, the process needs a quantum leap forward – and EU partnership is vital. The EU has taken a principled stand for a just, two-state solution, and against the settlement-building that is obstructing progress. You understand the global risks of continued conflict and the global benefits of peace. You have tremendous credibility for your experience in building democratic institutions, security and trust. I hope you can bring all this to bear in the days ahead.

My friends, many peoples, one neighbourhood – and one future. This is the challenge for Europe and the Middle East, and it is our strength. Together we face immense issues – economic, political, peace. The solutions are complex and the path forward difficult. But together, we have the will and the wisdom to reach the goals we seek. And together we can succeed.

(The House accorded the speaker a standing ovation)

 
  
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  President. – Your Majesty, thank you very much for your address; many thanks for your words. I believe that the applause of the Members in Parliament today has shown that there is a major correlation between the line you take and the European Parliament’s views, not only in the framework of the cooperation between Jordan and the European Parliament, but also in connection with the role that your country can play throughout the region, which we believe is crucial. That also came across from your words, in particular, when you once again made reference to your role as mediator between Israel and Palestine. We thank you for being here today and we thank you for your words. I would just like to point out once again what was also clear from the applause, namely, that in fostering peaceful, economically sustainable, democratic and socially just development throughout the region as the basis for collaboration between Europe and the Middle East, we rely heavily on you and on your country. Thank you very much.

(Applause)

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ANNI PODIMATA
Vice-President

 
Last updated: 16 July 2012Legal notice