The European Union sent out its representatives to Jordan’s capital Amman to discuss the difficulties faced by the Middle Eastern country in the context of regional instability. The refugee situation and the overall issue of integration and support were some of the major issues high on the agenda. The EU representatives acknowledged the need for international support and detailed measures as Amman has developed a comprehensive strategy to deal with the massive influx of refugees, mostly fleeing the war in Syria, over the past years.
The UN Refugee Agency reports that Jordan is home to the second highest number of refugees – 89 per 1000 inhabitants – in the world. Representatives from the European and Jordanian civil society are therefore rightly concerned about the unprecedented economic and political challenges the country has to grapple with being surrounded by countries in upheaval. This does not only mean the influx of refugees – it is also about the loss of important export markets and regional trading partners, most notably Syria and Iraq. “The way Jordan has opened its borders to welcome refugees, despite the difficult situation, should be an example for many countries, including EU member states,” said Georges Dassis, the President of the European Economic and Social Committee.
On top of focusing on this rather obvious agenda, EU leaders also inquired about the work of civil society organizations and the government in education and vocational training. Both are seen as powerful tools that could be leveraged to combat joblessness, especially among young Jordanians. Jordan’s relations with the EU are currently governed by a 1997 association agreement as part of the European Neighborhood Policy. The agreement aims to progressively establish a free trade area between the EU and Jordan over a 12 year-period, in line with World Trade Organization rules. Jordan is also a member of the EU’s Union for the Mediterranean.