European Union External Action

Yemen and the EU

The European Union enjoys longstanding relations with Yemen, which date back to 1997 when the first official cooperation agreement was signed. This relationship has kept growing ever since. Framework governing the EU – Yemen partnership.

The EU Delegation is as part of the G18 diplomatic group (Permanent 5 of the UNSC, the GCC and the EU Delegation) that are the sponsors and guardians of the GCC initiative signed in November 2011. The GCC initiative initiated a two-year transitional process that was foreseen to end in February 2014 with fair, transparent and competitive elections. Instead, the country entered into a phase of political instability and violence that started a military conflict between the internationally recognized Government of President Hadi, exiled in Riyadh, and the forces of Ansarallah and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Supporting the ongoing negotiations to end the conflict and return to a peaceful transitional process is a key political priority for the EU.  

The EU hopes that a new inclusive political agreement brokered by the UN with the support of the International Community  will allow Yemenis themselves to re-build their state on civil and democratic along principles accepted by all. The main goal of this process is to respond to the legitimate demands of the Yemenis, who want the establishment of a democratic, modern and civil state that respects and protects the rights of its citizens.

Since September 2016,  Antonia Calvo has been the EU Head of Delegation to the Republic of Yemen. She represents the EU in areas such as political, trade, and development cooperation. Consular protection of EU citizens is provided by individual EU Member States' Embassies and their Consulates. The seven EU Member States represented in Sana’a are: Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. 

Since February 2015 all EU member States have evacuated their diplomatic missions in Sana’a. The EU Delegation has been operating from Headquarters in Brussels.

The EU Delegation has been supporting the mediation efforts of the UN secretary General Special Envoy and has called on all parties to engage in negotiations without preconditions, in order to achieve an inclusive political agreement that puts an end to the conflict.

Export of crude oil used to account for around 90% of Yemen's total export. 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 except fuels. The EU's bilateral trade and economic relations with Yemen have been growing over the years, making the EU one of the main commercial partners of Yemen. The EU was Yemen's third major trade partner with a total value of €129 million, 8.7% share in its total external trade.

However, since the war started in 2015 there has been a considerable destruction of Yemen’s productive infrastructure, estimated at 12 billion dollars in the preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment undertaken by UN, WB, IBD and EU in the last quarter of 2015, based on data from 4 cities and regions. GDP has contracted over 30% by mid-2016 and 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. A humanitarian disaster is looming, with 80% of Yemen population in need of humanitarian assistance, 2,5 million internally displaced persons and over 14,4 million Yemenis on a population of 26 million already chronically food insecure. Access to clean water and health services has been severely affected by the conflict.

Until the beginning of the conflict the EU was an important partner in Yemen's economic development, providing amongst other things direct assistance to speed up Yemen's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its integration into the world economy. Yemen also benefits from the EU's "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.

Development cooperation is at the heart of the EU's partnership with Yemen. The current EU support amounts to around €440 million earmarked in the multiannual plan 2016-2020. In addition, the EU's humanitarian office, ECHO, allocated € 120 million  in humanitarian aid since the beginning of the conflict. The EU is a lead donor in sectors such as food security, state-building, public health, and humanitarian aid. The EU's support focuses on improving good governance and reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth and developing human capital in order to increase the delivery of basic social services, social protection and job creation.

The EU is also an important donor for civil society.  Due to the conflict and the evacuation of the EU Delegation, a significant part of the EU projects in Yemen have been suspended until now, although there have been new projects directed at supporting resilience of the rural population, providing essential services to vulnerable people and community base job creation schemes.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab region. The Yemeni economy was 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 Yemen Economic Support Programme (YESP) focuses on Private Sector Development and in particular facilitating access to finance for SMEs with a specific focus on women and youth.

Strengthening resilience is at the core of successful humanitarian and development policies. The EU is active in strengthening resilience – especially social and economic development and livelihoods in Yemen. With an aim to support the transition to a stable economy, EU intervention promotes agricultural development and food security at both community and institutional level. The EU also provides support to the fisheries sector. With a coastline of around 2,230 km, the sector is a major part of the rural economy. It currently provides livelihoods for thousands of fishermen and food for hundreds of thousands of people. The Yemen Fisheries Support Programme (YFSP) promotes the sustainable development of coastal communities and supports the private sector in providing opportunities for growth, local jobs and export.

The current situation will make Yemen even more dependent on international development aid and the success of a future peaceful political transition will be greatly determined by the capacity of the future Government to provide basic social services and job opportunities. The role of the International Community will be key in supporting Yemen in peace building and economic recovery.

A vibrant civil society is key to developing a democratic Yemen and can contribute to equitable development and inclusive economic growth. Civil society organisations (CSO) not only represent, but also empower, defend and reach out to vulnerable and socially excluded groups. They contribute to economic and human development, while strengthening social cohesion and promoting innovation. In particular in countries in transition, such as Yemen, CSOs work to strengthen participatory democracy for a more accountable, transparent and legitimate governance system.

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 the role of civil society varies from service delivery to vulnerable groups, to strategic engagement on policy development and oversight of the authorities, the EU has developed a more ambitious framework to engage with it. Since 2005 an increasing part of the EU's assistance to Yemen has been channelled through CSOs, with currently some 40% of all EU funds in Yemen implemented through CSOs. CSO projects typically focus on issues related to human rights, conflict prevention, development of small & medium enterprises, promoting social equity and decentralised service delivery in the health sector.

Before the escalation of the conflict Yemen was already considered the poorest country in the Arab World. Nearly 50 per cent of the population was living below the poverty line and the country was recording one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. The current conflict has exacerbated the existing humanitarian crisis and over 21.2 million people (82 % of the population) is now in need of assistance.

The UN has classified Yemen as a Level 3 emergency – the most severe, large-scale humanitarian crisis. 12.2 million People have been directly affected by the conflict. 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes, 15.2 million people are in need of healthcare, 12.9 million people are food insecure, 1.5 million women and children are in need of nutrition services and 20.4 million people are in need of water and sanitation. The United Nations launched the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2016 with a total requirement of $1.8 billion targeting 13.6 million people.

For 2016 the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department, ECHO, has allocated €30 million under its Humanitarian Implementation Plan. ECHO prioritizes life-saving assistance in the sectors of health, nutrition, food security, protection, shelter/NFI, and water and sanitation, as a means to respond to the effects of the conflict and the collapse of government services and the pre-existing humanitarian situation.

A small portion of the Commission' funding will be used to ensure monitoring of the rapidly evolving humanitarian situation and security, as well as coordination among humanitarian actors and donors. Advocacy work, disseminating information about the principles of humanitarian aid: neutrality, impartiality and independence, is also being conducted.

The funds are channelled through partner organizations (international NGOs, specialized UN agencies and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement) who ensure that the aid reaches populations most in need regardless of their political affiliation, religious beliefs or ethnic origin.

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