Europe Day celebrates the historic Schuman Declaration of 1950. Robert Schuman, the then French foreign minister, set out his idea that closer political-economic co-operation in Europe would make war between the continent’s nations unthinkable. His vision became reality, thanks to the collective efforts of European nation states. His foresight led to the creation of the institutions of the European Union and laid the foundations for the EU’s prosperity.
Co-operation, the cornerstone of his idea, is now all the more relevant. It is through partnerships that we create opportunities and tackle crises, collectively emerging stronger. To respond to global crises and challenges successfully, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system, founded on universal rules and values. The EU is privileged to have partners around the world, including the UAE, who share a similar vision and strive to build a better tomorrow today.
Common problems require a joint response. It is for this reason the EU has been the most ardent supporter and largest contributor to the global multilateral order, with the UN at its core. Despite high and lows during its seven-decade history, the EU remains the most successful example of regional co-operation.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vital co-operation really is. No one is safe until everyone is safe. The same applies to other challenges that continue to plague our era, like climate change or terrorism. While the pandemic has tested the very foundations of the EU, our unity and solidarity, the EU has shown its ability to remain together and demonstrated global solidarity during the crisis.
The EU and its member states have combined their efforts to provide a quick and effective global response as “Team Europe”. With empathy and humility, we have reached out to our partners, looking at the specific needs of each country and region, to help them respond to the pandemic because we will only be safe when everyone is safe.
The EU is the largest exporter of Covid-19 vaccines in the world. So far, over 150 million doses of vaccines produced in the EU have been exported to more than 43 countries and over 40m doses have been donated to almost a 120 countries. The EU has become the “pharmacy of the world”, ranking first in terms of donations within the Covax facility. Team Europe has been working to ensure global, equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and support the rollout of vaccination campaigns.
However, the challenge requires combining our efforts. To defeat the pandemic, we need to act together and fast. The EU commends the UAE’s solidarity beyond its national borders. The UAE has led by example by generously sharing personal protective equipment and medical supplies, as well as vaccines, to many countries in the region and beyond.
Yet in the midst of the pandemic, other pressing challenges do not show any signs of abating. Climate change is not a new crisis. Saving our planet requires immediate and collective action. The EU, along with the UAE, has signed up to the Paris Agreement that seeks to limit global warming to well below 2°C. Recently, the EU has shown leadership by adopting a new climate law that turns its political commitment into a legal obligation. EU member states have now committed to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030 and become climate-neutral by 2050.
Although the transition to green energy and zero emissions will not be easy, it does present an opportunity. The EU Green Deal is a new growth strategy that will transform the EU into a green, resource-efficient and competitive economy braced for the future. Here again, we will only solve this crisis if we act together. We welcome and commend the UAE’s efforts to cut emissions and prepare for the post-oil era. Although the UAE remains one of the largest oil exporting countries in the world, it has made a strategic decision to invest in renewable energy and low-carbon technology. It hosts two of the largest solar plants in the world and is seriously engaged in other low-emission energy sources, such as hydrogen. The UAE’s transition and diversification efforts are commendable in view of the pressing challenge of climate change.
The challenges are of such scale that traditional solutions will not be enough. We need to make increasing use of innovation, technology and digitalisation. The Covid-19 pandemic has been “a fast-forward button” on the importance of digital technologies and innovative thinking. The EU is determined to be a beacon with its “Digital Decade”, strengthening our digital response and setting regulatory standards. The UAE has been a trailblazer in this regard, with far-reaching vision and agile implementation.
We can only address major global challenges with a common response by establishing partnerships and by preserving and strengthening multilateralism. The EU is looking forward to continuing working with the UAE and the rest of the world. The upcoming Expo 2020 in Dubai will be a unique occasion for “connecting minds” and “creating the future”, as the event’s theme states, on many of these challenges. The EU will be there, once more, on the side of the UAE and its international partners to show that co-operation remains the only way to face our challenges, together.
Andrea Matteo Fontana is the European Union Ambassador to the UAE