The Delegation of the European Union to Yemen

Yemen and the EU

16/05/2016 - 17:30
EU relations with Country

Relations between the European Union and Yemen

The EU enjoys longstanding relations with Yemen, which date back to July 1998, when the relationship was formalised with the entry into force of a bilateral cooperation agreement focused on commercial, development and economic issues, setting the basis for a long-term commitment between the EU and Yemen. This was enhanced with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, after which the EU's role as a political actor became more prominent. The start of the crisis in 2015 had a strong impact on this previous cooperation, as the EU Delegation was evacuated from Sana'a. It has been operating from Amman, Jordan, since 2017.

The EU is currently focused on supporting the UN Special Envoy and the UN-led political process, including the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. The Agreement was reached by representatives of the Yemeni parties in December 2018 and represents a first step towards the resumption of negotiations to find an inclusive political solution to the ongoing conflict. To support the UN-led political process, the EU actively engages with all parties to the conflict in order to bring relevant stakeholders together and build trust among the conflicting parties. The EU works relentlessly to increase the inclusivity of the peace process by opening it all parts of society, including civil society, women and youth, and by supporting negotiation and reconciliation from the local to the regional level. The EU is committed to the protection and realization of human rights of all Yemenis and continues to advocate for the full respect of international law, including international humanitarian law.

The latest Council Conclusions on Yemen were adopted on 18 February 2019. In the Conclusions, the EU expresses its support for the UN Security Council Resolutions 2451 and 2452 underpinning the Stockholm Agreement and for the establishment for the UN Mission to support the Al-Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA). Further, the EU endorses and supports the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) in order to ensure that commercial goods, which are of paramount importance for the survival of millions of Yemenis, continue to flow into the country.

Export of crude oil used to account for around 90% of Yemen's total exports. Yemen’s non-oil exports were primarily agricultural products, mainly fish and fish products, vegetables, fruits, coffee and honey. Oil exports were already decreasing before the conflict, due to depleting resources in the different oil blocks. There is no certain estimation on proven oil reserves in Yemen. The turbulent security situation furthermore hinders investments aimed at discovering new sites for the exploitation of petroleum. Therefore, Yemen is in urgent need to diversify its production and exports portfolio. Yemen is a net importer of all major categories of products. In 2017, EU exports to Yemen stood at €555 million, while imports from Yemen were worth €33 million.

Since 2015 there has been a considerable destruction of Yemen’s infrastructure. Current estimates assume that Yemeni GDP has contracted between 30% – 40% and that fiscal revenue has collapsed due to the halt of oil and gas exports. Public finances are under strain and foreign reserves barely can finance essential imports.

Until the beginning of the conflict the EU has been an important partner in Yemen's economic development, providing inter alia direct assistance to speed up Yemen's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its integration into the world economy. Yemen also benefitted from the EU's duty- and quota- free access to the EU for all products originating in the country, except arms – the "Everything but Arms" (EBA) initiative under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). With this trade arrangement the EU provides developing countries with preferential access to the EU market in the form of reduced tariffs on goods.

Since July 2016, Yemen has become part of the list of third countries with strategic deficiencies in their anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing frameworks (Directive (EU) 2018/843). The EU, together with the international community, remains supportive of the ongoing efforts undertaken in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) framework in order to reinforce the institutional capacity of the Central Bank of Yemen and other financial institutions notably for supervisory tasks.   For more information, check the Commission factsheet on anti-money laundering.

The conflict in Yemen has resulted in a near-total collapse of basic services delivery. The needs in the country are huge and complex. The EU is pursuing a synthesized approach of humanitarian and development assistance, focusing on health, resilience and food security, working at rural level with local authorities and communities to respond to the crisis. This approach allows a direct impact on the populations in need and contributes to stabilise regions of the country, where conflict has had profound destructive effects on infrastructure and on the social fabric. The presence of development partners on the ground, including United Nations institutions, European development agencies and international NGOs, enables the EU to have an increased impact through development cooperation in the fields of resilience building, health and food security.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab region; even before the conflict, Yemen was heavily reliant upon international support. The Yemeni economy has been heavily dependent on oil production and oil exports, troubled by political turmoil and instability, which has led to business closures and job losses. Yemen has one of the highest population growth rates in the world, placing pressure on educational and health services, access to drinking water, and employment opportunities. The EU has been supporting projects aiming at developing a competitive, diversified and sustainable economic environment that favours an inclusive and diversified private sector based on small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

The current situation in Yemen calls for increased humanitarian assistance but also for ensuring development aid in strategic areas that can contribute meaningfully to improved livelihoods, pave the ground for dialogue and reconciliation and promote stability. The allocation for Yemen in the period 2018-2020 under the Development Cooperation Instrument amounts to €150 million. With such allocation the EU plans to focus on the provision of basic services in the areas of resilience and food security, the health sector (rehabilitation and basic healthcare), and support to internally displaced people (IDPs), ensuring that local communities are protected from famine and disease, strengthening their resilience in the face of crisis. With an aim to support the transition to a stable economy, EU interventions have promoted agricultural development and food security at both community and institutional level. The EU has also provided support to the fisheries sector.

The continuing crisis in Yemen is exacerbating the Country's reliance on international development assistance; the success of a future peaceful political transition will be dependent upon the capacity of a future government to provide basic social services and job opportunities. The role of the international community at large, including the European Union, will be the key in supporting Yemen in peacebuilding and economic recovery.  

A vibrant civil society is crucial in developing a democratic Yemen and can contribute to equitable development and inclusive economic growth. At times of war, it is often the most immediate safety net for citizens to rely upon. CSOs not only represent, but also empower, defend and reach out to vulnerable and socially excluded groups. That is why the EU has also supported the work of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Yemen.

For the EU, civil society includes all non-state, not-for-profit, non-violent and non-partisan structures in which citizens organize to achieve common goals and objectives, whether political, economic, social or cultural. Since 2005 an increasing part of the EU's assistance to Yemen has been channelled through CSOs, with a significant amount of all EU funds in Yemen implemented through CSOs. CSO projects typically focused on issues related to human rights, conflict prevention, development of small & medium enterprises, promoting social equity and decentralised service delivery in the health sector. Notwithstanding the current conflict, the EU is paving the way to explore possibilities of resuming direct support to Yemeni CSOs.

The EU is also committed to strengthening the rule of law and capacities of the justice system in Yemen. The EU's project Strengthening the Rule of Law in Yemen: Promoting Restorative Justice and Gender Responsive Justice aims to reduce overcrowding and recidivism in targeted prisons in Yemen by promoting informal justice mechanisms, strengthening the correctional and rehabilitation department and introducing reintegration schemes for prisoners.

Before the escalation of the conflict, nearly 50% of the Yemeni population was living below the poverty line and the country had one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. The current conflict has exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis. With an estimated 24.4 million people – over 80% of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, including 14.4 million in acute need, over 2.5 million Yemenis internally displaced and 20million people food insecure, Yemen remains the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

From 2015 until present, the EU has contributed a total of €439.2 million in humanitarian funding to Yemen. Such commitment has been further reinforced in 2019, when the EU bolstered its humanitarian commitment with an additional contribution of €80 million, bringing the year's total allocation to €115 million.

The EU has urged all parties to the conflict to ensure sustained and sufficient access for both humanitarian and commercial commodities into Yemen through all the country's ports. The delivery of life-saving supplies through all access points in Yemen remains critical for the Yemeni population and must be facilitated by all parties. Due to the massive scale of humanitarian needs – Yemen is classified by the UN as a Level 3 emergency – international efforts and mobilisations have not been able to fully cover the huge needs that the country faces.

The EU has also been monitoring the rapidly evolving humanitarian situation and security, as well as coordinating among humanitarian actors and donors to promote advocacy work and the disseminate information about the principles of humanitarian aid: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. In this regard, EU funds are channelled through partner organizations (international NGOs, specialized UN agencies and the Red Cross / Red Crescent movement) who ensure that the aid reaches populations most in need regardless of their political affiliation, religious beliefs or ethnic origin.

In a move to ease the humanitarian crisis, the UN has established a Verification and Inspection mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM) so as to impartially verify and inspect incoming commercial goods. The EU, which is the largest co-funder of UNVIM, remains supportive of its mandate and its unhindered implementation.

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