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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations
News article25 April 2018Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations

Opening remarks by Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the Parallel session on "Inclusive human capital development and economic recovery in the region"

Prime Minister, Ministers, Excellencies, conference participants,I have spent a lot of this week listening. On Monday I heard from young people from the region, whose determination to turn impossible situations into success was quite remarkable.

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Prime Minister, Ministers, Excellencies, conference participants,

I have spent a lot of this week listening. On Monday I heard from young people from the region, whose determination to turn impossible situations into success was quite remarkable.

Yesterday I heard from partners who work with us on the challenges for all those trying to keep economic development going in the countries hosting so many refugees.

The messages I have heard all week and indeed during my recent trip to the region do not come as a surprise.

The hard truth is that after 5 years of conflict there are few new insights on the needs of the surrounding region. When we learn something new, it is that needs have grown, not diminished; that emergency response has to become less transient, because the crisis is protracted, and will continue.

What is important is that we do not let all this dull our reaction to what is happening around us.

You don’t get used to war. The situation for the Syrian people remains intolerable. I was shocked to hear that suicide is prevalent among refugees.

We salute the generosity of those countries hosting refugees. But their effort is not something that is more easily absorbed with time, rather a challenge that only grows. Handling economic disruption, increased pressure on public services, and greater competition for jobs for a short period is one thing. But this is no longer a short period,

AND even if some of the difficulties experienced by host countries were there even before the refugees arrived, the need for help and support is much starker now.

Donor fatigue, lethargic policy making, inertia, despair - these are all things that we have to guard against in the face of challenges that seem ever bigger.

Our job is to help each individual child, student, potential entrepreneur, find their way. Every child that drops out of school because it is simply too hard to get there, or they don’t feel safe, is a loss to all of us. Every child who gets sent out to work because their family can't get by any other way, has been let down by all of us.

I speak often to ministers from the host governments knowing that we constantly ask them to raise their game, while they are under the most enormous pressures.

BUT the only way forward is to foster inclusive economic growth not just for this moment but for the longer term. I only heard yesterday how important it is to avoid obstacles to women joining the labour market.

And that means creating an atmosphere of confidence for investors, improving the business climate and investing in individuals is crucial.

The EU is doing its part not only as a donor in the classic sense. We have launched the EU external investment plan, which will help generate substantial additional investment funds in both Lebanon and Jordan. .

For Lebanon, the EU will mobilise all its instruments to support the Capital Investment Programme and the important reforms that must support this.

We look forward to working with the Prime Minister on the follow up to the successful CEDRE conference held just recently in Paris.

Jordan is setting itself some ambitious targets for relaunching growth in the economy. We are keen to support its efforts on job creation, competitiveness and export promotion, as well as other labour market reforms – alongside important efforts for macro-economic stabilisation.

AND we are working to increase the impact of the preferential market access the EU has granted to Jordan via the EU Rules of Origin scheme, knowing that this will never, on its own, be a magic bullet.

In Turkey, EU assistance managed under the Facility for Refugees has delivered concrete and substantial results, mobilising EU assistance swiftly, efficiently and effectively. The EU stands by its commitment to provide a second tranche of funding for the Facility.

The Facility has been supporting all stages of the education system, from early childhood to higher education. The Conditional Cash Transfer for Education programme is the largest Education in Emergencies programme ever financed by the EU. Our support bridges the one, big additional obstacle to integration, compared to Lebanon and Jordan: learning the Turkish language as fast as possible at all ages.

Economic recovery and social development are at the heart of our work together, because very simply, this is about who will build the future of this region. Will it be people who choose peace and stability or who – having lost so much, and barely remembering a time without violence, perpetuate instability? The stakes are high for our partners but also for Europe. We are in this together.

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