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Iberdrola

Opinion

The role that Europe is not playing in Yemen

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At any moment, Yemen could end up in a terrible catastrophe of hitherto unknown consequences if the international community does not react to the need to step up humanitarian support to this poor and unfortunate country. Everything possible must be done and everything that can be saved must be done before it is too late. Everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation in Yemen, but few are acting and helping, especially the neighbours who are doing what they can to alleviate the suffering of the people. Yemen has more than 30 million people, more than half of whom survive on humanitarian aid from abroad, and if this aid were to stop, half of Yemen's population would face absolute disaster.

The humanitarian aid campaigns that have been carried out since the outbreak of the conflict in 2015 have been a lung by which Yemenis breathe and survive. Many were the actors who helped in these campaigns and have contributed to keep supplies and aid flowing, but it is worth noting that Europe was absent and has not contributed to alleviating the suffering of the Yemeni people and its contribution remains very timid, if not non-existent. Unfortunately, this reality coincides in time with the loss of US weight, presence and influence in the Middle East. This may suggest that Europe remains dependent on Washington, even on an issue that has to do with humanitarian aid.

Abandoning a country like Yemen, leaving it helpless and immersed in war, conflict, famine, poverty and misery, will have catastrophic repercussions with global reach. The international security stakes are high in Yemen. It should not be forgotten that terrorist organisations have a presence in Yemen and the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation's branch in Yemen is considered the strongest Islamist terrorist organisation in the world, according to all US security and intelligence reports.

Poverty, displacement and lack of prospects for a better future are the breeding ground for terrorist organisations. What would happen if the whole world were to abandon the Yemeni people? The answer to this question should give us pause for serious thought. Fortunately, the Yemeni people have not been left behind or turned their backs on, as there are countries that have continued to actively support and bring humanitarian aid to Yemen on a daily basis. The United Arab Emirates is a case in point. Abu Dhabi has been and continues to be an active contributor in providing food and medicine to millions of Yemenis. Emirati humanitarian aid to Yemen has amounted to more than twenty billion dollars over the past seven years. On the other hand, European aid to Yemen is almost non-existent, which explains why Europe is losing influence throughout the Middle East, while other actors are taking advantage of the situation to increase their influence and weight in the region, taking advantage of the vacuum left by the United States and Europe's neglect.

It is clear that the countries involved and interested in Yemen have an enormous interest in finding a political solution to the crisis. A way out that will end the conflict, and this is a vision that has broad support, both regionally and internationally after seven years of war that led to no result.

An EU parliamentary delegation to Abu Dhabi received assurances from Saqr Ghobash, president of the Federal National Council of the United Arab Emirates, that his country is "ready to continue humanitarian aid and efforts for a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. This raises a very important question: is Europe satisfied with the aid provided by a country like the UAE in Yemen? Will Europe recognise its inability to carry out efforts to help the people of Yemen

It is true that the challenges of humanitarian aid in Yemen are immense and complex. If under normal conditions of peace and stability the country presented worrying rates of poverty and basic needs, with the war this situation has worsened even further and become unsustainable. Little development has stagnated and public services have deteriorated at the same time as the state structure has been weakened and disjointed. This situation should make European decision-makers reflect on the importance of presence and assistance and the provision of aid to save an entire people urgently, a role in which, until recently, Europe excelled internationally, but over the past decades, we have witnessed a more worrying decline.

Since 7 April, Yemen has entered a new phase following the formation of a presidential leadership council. This is a new attempt to get the political process back on track and end the stagnation that has prevailed in recent years and to halt the collapse of state institutions and bodies. With the formation of this council, citizens are once again hopeful and expect an end to the conflicts and wars that have plagued the country for more than a decade. This step has also been accompanied by generous pledges of financial support to strengthen the role of Yemen's institutions and a significant boost to the country's ailing local currency. Support for the Yemeni economy would provide oxygen and enable local authorities to overcome the challenges and multiple problems facing the country. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia announced that they will donate three billion dollars to the Central Bank of Yemen, which is facing a severe currency crisis with the value of the local currency collapsing to unprecedented levels, one might ask, what did Europe offer in this new phase in Yemen?

From the above we can conclude that all support and humanitarian aid efforts to this forgotten country were channelled by neighbouring countries in most cases, if not all. This raises many questions about the reasons for the abandonment of Yemen by other countries and powers such as the European Union, Britain and the United States. All these countries and powers have been absent and have failed to provide humanitarian support and assistance to Yemenis. This justifies Yemenis thinking that rich countries, from Europe in particular, do not care about them, which is true given the reality and recent history.

An influential country in the wealthy European bloc can play a decisive role in bringing about a change in the methodology of dealing with many crises facing millions of people such as the crisis in Yemen. Spain is fully capable and called upon to undertake such a change in Europe given the vacuum left by other European countries and in the Middle East region in particular. With the Union preoccupied almost exclusively with the crisis in Ukraine, a justified concern given the circumstances and the unprecedented dangers with Russia ever closer to our borders. But all of this does not mean at all, or should not mean, that Europe should look the other way and leave all its responsibilities around the world behind. Europe must not isolate itself because it risks losing its ability to influence key regions that are very important for the Old Continent, such as the Middle East.