(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Jordan will receive a financial assistance package of around 3 billion euros over the next three years, of which 1.2 billion from the EU member states will be available in the coming 12 months, the EU announced on Wednesday.
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Catherine Ashton made the announcement at a press conference held jointly with Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh at the end of the Jordan-EU Task Force meeting held yesterday on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Khasawneh, who described the discussions as "very successful", expressed the Kingdom's appreciation for the EU's support for Jordan's reform efforts aimed at boosting the country's democratic process.
"The meeting sessions were very fruitful as we exchanged ideas and views on the democratic discourse we have been undertaking and we briefed our European partners on the economic challenges and legislative changes that have started" as part of the political reform process, the premier said.
In response to a question about the ongoing demonstrations calling for reform, the premier said: "We do not underestimate the magnitude of the challenges that we face and we have to put things in perspective. Since the so-called Arab Spring started, successive governments have managed this popular traffic with utmost sense of responsibility via responding to the demands of the people without the use of force."
Khaswneh added that the government respects the freedom of expression as long as it maintains a peaceful appproach and does not undermine the country's or the people's interests.
Elaborating on the assistance package, Ashton said the EU will make available an additional amount of 70 million euros in line with the Principles of the Communication of March 2011, making 30 million euros available immediately. She added that the EU support will focus on a limited number of priorities with particular emphasis on good governance and economic growth.
"The European Investment Bank is currently working on an extensive pipeline of already identified new projects with an estimated lending activities of up to 400 million euros over the next two years," Ashton said.
In addition, "Jordan will also be eligible for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's investment [that is] expected to build up over 2-3 years to an annual volume of around d 300 million euros depending on the needs and opportunities given," she added, noting that the meeting opens a new chapter in the joint relations and cooperation between Jordan and the EU member states individually and within their capacity as members of the EU.
On the sidelines of the press conference, the two sides signed 15 million euro and 5 million euro agreements, under which the EU will fund the second phases of the reinforcement of modernisation of the services, technology and innovation sectors.
Both sides also agreed to launch a dialogue on economic reforms to enhance competitiveness, including such key areas as attracting inward investments, boosting innovation and encouraging business start-ups, and expanding small and medium enterprises.
At the opening session, Khasawneh said the joint meeting comes as the Kingdom is about to take historic steps towards democracy.
"We will continue our reform efforts out of our belief that those efforts will lead to the enhancement of the economic, social and political atmosphere in the country. I hope that this meeting will take out joint relations to the next level based on mutual respect and interests," he said.
He outlined progress made so far in political reform, citing constitutional amendments and a pipeline of other reforms such as a "new democratic elections law", the law governing the independent elections monitoring commission, the political parties law and the constitutional court.
In her remarks, Ashton said: "This first Task Force is the expression of our mutual commitment in a time of change and I hope it will send a strong message. Jordan's success is our own success. We are fully committed to accompanying this country on its journey towards an inclusive and democratic society of social justice and economic prosperity that I know His Majesty, the government and the people wish to see. I believe that Jordan is engaged in a process of important political and economic reform, building on the foundations that are already in place."
"But I say to you: this is your country, these are your reforms. The job of the European Union is to help and support," she said.
Underscoring the reform measures the government has taken, Ashton said: "Jordanians expect a great deal from their country, from their government and rightly so. It is their government's job to deliver for the people. But also many in the region and in the world look to Jordan."
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh underlined the advanced status Jordan has obtained at the EU, adding that this development reflected the strong and distinguished relations between both sides.
He added that the Arab Spring came in response to the people's "thirst for democracy, freedom and better living conditions".