Andrea Matteo Fontana
Andrea Matteo Fontana, EU Ambassador to the UAE and EU Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 Dubai

Dubai: The 27 member-states under the European Union (EU) will focus on the issue of climate action at Expo 2020 Dubai and use the global event as a platform “to underline EU’s commitment to international cooperation and join forces to respond to global challenges”.

This was emphasised by Andrea Matteo Fontana, EU Ambassador to the UAE and EU Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 Dubai, in an interview with Gulf News.

Fontana said: “We must act now to choose a better, healthier and more prosperous way for the future. And EU is paving a responsible path to becoming the first climate neutral region in the world by 2050. So, at the Expo, we will look at how we can promote green economies, renewable energy and tackle climate change, thereby ensuring a green post-COVID economic recovery,” he added.

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‘Team Europe’

Fontana noted that EU works closely with its member-states in developing cooperation programmes around the world. “This joint approach, known as the ‘Team Europe’ approach, gives us a stronger voice and allows us to convey our messages more coherently,” Fontana noted.

As an official participant, the 27-member EU bloc, is teaming up with its member-states to host different events at their pavilions and various Expo venues, as well as in multiple locations across Dubai, in line with the Team Europe approach.

“EU is proud to be taking part in Expo 2020 Dubai, which is the very first international gathering of this sort taking place in the Middle East, said Fontana, adding: “Expo 2020 Dubai is a tremendous opportunity to underline (our) commitment to international cooperation and to join forces to respond to global challenges.

Key themes

Fontana said EU will participate in a set of high-level events centred around five main clusters, namely: Sustainability and Climate Change; Food, Farming and Health; Innovation, Digitalisation and Space; Inclusivity/Equality, including women empowerment; and Business and Economy.

He noted that the themes are driven by the most pressing societal challenges and areas where EU can make substantial contributions.

“EU is a leader in human and social development with a long-standing legacy in unlocking potential, creating opportunities and empowering all segments of society. EU also ensures the highest standards of climate, environmental and labour protections and as one of the first global events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai will be an important opportunity to prepare for a more sustainable future,” Fontana explained.

Cultural activities

According to Fontana, there will be numerous events celebrating the richness and diversity of EU. He noted: “Expo presents a remarkable opportunity to bring people together and for the public to get to know EU — a diverse union of nearly 500 million people. And what better way to do so than through culture and the arts.”

One highlight is the EU Honour Day, which will take place on October 23, in the presence of senior EU leaders and world-renowned artists. A gala event will tell the story of EU through performances of music, dance and technology, highlighting the EU’s diversity and harmony. The gala event will be streamed live on EU social media platforms (@EUintheUAE).

Food is another important part of Europe’s rich heritage and visitors will have the opportunity to take part in cooking demonstrations and masterclasses by chefs from around EU. They will also be able to taste the food at multiple locations across Dubai.

Equality and women empowerment

Fontana said EU will work with Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which is the first pavilion in Expo history solely dedicated to women.

“At Expo, we are proud to be hosting a number of high-level events around women empowerment, including women in tech, women in governance and the importance of gender-balanced, family-friendly policies to unlock human potential in partnership with UN Women, various EU member-states and the UAE in collaboration with Cartier,” said Fontana, who added: “EU has long been a champion of equality and women empowerment”.

“We are hosting a high-level event titled ‘Women and career progression: How to unlock human potential’ on October 22, in partnership with Italy, Spain, Sweden, Slovenia and UN Women. Starting with a photo exhibition titled ‘Emirati Dads’, the event will celebrate trailblazing women who are leaders in their chosen careers, inspirational men who are championing women empowerment at the workplace and global leaders who are at the forefront of gender and family-friendly policies. We are pleased to have many exceptional leaders participating from the UAE, the region and the world,” Fontana added.

‘Support to partner countries’

“Team Europe has also pledged 40.5 billion euros (Dh173.66 million) to provide emergency humanitarian support to partner countries supporting them to strengthen their preparedness and response capacities to deal with this unprecedented global crisis. That is why Expo 2020 Dubai, as the first post-COVID global event of this magnitude represents a positive step towards recovery as travel restrictions ease and global economy slowly rebounds. The UAE, as the host country, and other Gulf countries, are important partners to the EU in our collective efforts to tackle the pandemic,” he underlined.

UAE-EU partnership

Fontana said: “The UAE is an important partner of the EU in our collective efforts to tackle global challenges. EU is eager to continue exchange of expertise and best practices on the pandemic response. Beyond politics, it is also important to advance people-to-people relations, fostering dialogue, mutual understanding and respect between the EU and UAE. And Expo 2020 Dubai is the perfect forum for this.”