NAT-audience-shot-(Read-Only)
Shaikh Nahyan and 20 European ambassadors and deputy ambassadors attended the event hosted by Paris Sorbonne University on Reem Island. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Europe will come out stronger and better from its current challenges, including Brexit, diplomats said at a Europe Day celebration in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Shaikh Nahayan Bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance, and 20 European ambassadors and deputy ambassadors attended the event hosted by Paris Sorbonne University on Reem Island.

Celebrated annually, Europe Day marks the 1950 Schuman Declaration that laid the foundation of the European Union (EU).

European businesses and European professionals are flourishing in our country and contributing immensely to our economic and social well-being.

- Shaikh Nahayan Bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance

“The UAE is delighted that you are here – Europe is quite clearly an important continent of the world, the talent and inventiveness of Europe is on display here in the UAE. European businesses and European professionals are flourishing in our country and contributing immensely to our economic and social well-being,” Shaikh Nahayan said.

“The people of the UAE are deeply gratified that we are cooperating and collaborating to further our similar aspirations and shared values. This evening we share the conviction that the proven friendship between the UAE and all European countries will be further strengthened.”

Shaikh Nahayan said the UAE will work alongside the EU on several issues such as “human rights, climate change, conservation, wealth distribution, trade, public health, malnutrition, and most of all [addressing] armed conflict”.

NAT_190429_Patrizio_Fondi22-1556542875888
Patrizio Fondi, ambassador of the EU to the UAE

Patrizio Fondi, EU ambassador to the UAE, said that Europe was going through a transitional period with challenges such as Brexit, immigration and economic issues.

“In my opinion, these challenges can lead to a new period of growth in the EU. In all countries and organisations there are always times where there are issues that need to be tackled, and it is during these times where you have the opportunity to improve. There is no status quo, we always need to be evolving in order to be more effective and to be able to understand the trends that are taking place,” he added.

Fondi also praised UAE-EU relations, calling the UAE the most like-minded country in the region.

The UAE is like Europe in many aspects such as empowering women, peace and tolerance. The potential for furthering our relations over the next years is endless.

- Patrizio Fondi, EU ambassador to the UAE

“The UAE is like Europe in many aspects such as empowering women, peace and tolerance. The potential for furthering our relations over the next years is endless and unlimited in areas like counter terrorism, space, research, energy and culture,” he observed.

Frank J.M. Mollen, Netherland’s ambassador to the UAE, said the EU was still very much needed but would have to change.

“It has to change, the people of Europe want it to change, they want more accountability and a less bureaucratic Europe. We had a few polls recently in the Netherlands with more than 85 per cent of Dutch people still holding favourable views towards the EU,” he said. “So we definitely want Europe and we realise we need Europe, but it’s important we get our internal challenges behind us and start working with the rest of the world.”

NAT_190429_Shaikh_Nahayan-1556542877817
Shaikh Nahayan Bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance during the Europe Day event in Abu Dhabi

Mollen also acknowledged the need to tackle the rise of populism, and said that politicians would need to allay concerns regarding issues such as globalisation.

“There are some people who are worried about globalisation and so we see a split in society. There is a segment of society who finds this very appealing and they manage to catch on, while some other segments of society find it very difficult and feel left behind. It is up to us politicians and society in general to make sure these people who are worried to catch on as well, and I’m convinced that will happen,” he said.

Latvia’s ambassador to the UAE Astra Kurme called the EU the world’s greatest project. “I am absolutely an admirer of Europe, I have believed in Europe since I knew Europe, and I think that Europe is the greatest project in the world with peace and security among its main hallmarks,” she said. “Europe has overcome so many challenges – one of which was the creation of the EU itself. And so if that was possible then I believe that future challenges can be met as this is a common project for all of Europe.”