(MENAFN - Jordan Times) The Arab and European regions have many peoples but "one neighbourhood, one future" and the challenge is how to make it a better one for all, His Majesty King Abdullah said in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
"It is our shared belief in the kind of neighbourhood it should be - the kind of neighbourhood our people deserve: rich in human dignity and freedom, powered by opportunity and progress and secured by peace," the King said in a speech delivered before the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
"Many peoples, one neighbourhood and one future. This is the challenge for Europe and the Middle East, and it is our strength," he said.
"Together, we face immense issues:Economic, political, peace. The solutions are complex and the path forward difficult," the King added (see full text of the speech).
The King voiced appreciation of the EU's support for Jordan's reform drive, highlighting the meetings of the new EU-Jordan Task Force in Amman two months ago, which discussed key programmes that will support the Kingdom's reform priorities, including democratic institutions, civil society, job creation, local economic development and humanitarian assistance.
The Monarch said the next month marks ten years since the Jordanian-European Association Agreement went into force, opening markets and job opportunities on both sides.
He expressed hope that these opportunities, now strengthened by the "advanced status" partnership, will further blossom in the years ahead.
"Global crises in finance, food and energy seriously hurt our economies" Today my region faces the highest youth unemployment of any region," the King said.
"Our societies are facing the challenge of moving from protests to programmes, from criticism to national strategies," he said, noting that the Arab world is awake and positive change is on the move.
The King said Jordan has embraced the Arab Spring as an opportunity to push past roadblocks that have slowed reform in the past.
He outlined the steps taken since last year to engage in a national dialogue to build consensus on concrete actions, with a focus on the Constitution, the foundation of the political system, he noted.
"Only we, all Jordanians, can build Jordan's future. And we must do so in such a way that our country remains a secure, safe haven, in spite of a region getting more turbulent around us, in spite of economic threats, in spite of neighbouring crises."
"This path demands consensus-based reform, based on structural, comprehensive change - political, legal, economic, and social - respecting the rights and freedoms of all our citizens," he said, adding that "Jordan can set a regional model of peaceful political evolution and democratisation".
Regarding the peace process, the King stressed the need to continue the efforts to achieve peace, noting that "peace must come if our region is to thrive and be secure. We cannot afford one more 'generation in waiting' for a Palestinian state".
"Jordan sees an effective peace process as a moral duty and a strategic interest, and we continue to pursue results", the King said, highlighting the EU's role over the past two years as "an invaluable friend to those, on both sides, working for peace in the Middle East".
In an address, President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz welcomed His Majesty and commended Jordan's reform drive and its social and political development, a Royal Court statement said.
He added that Europe wants to be a partner to Jordan in its transformation, commending Jordan's role in reviving the Middle East peace process.
Also on Wednesday, the King met with Schulz, members of the parliament, members of the Friends of Jordan Group in the European Parliament and Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland.
During the meetings, talks focused on means to enhance ties between the Kingdom and the EU, the changes witnessed in some Arab countries and other issues of mutual concern.
The King voiced appreciation of the EU's support to Jordan to achieve comprehensive reform and implement economic and development programmes, the statement said.
King Abdullah stressed the important role played by the European Parliament in bringing people together, promoting a culture of peace and overcoming the difficult economic conditions facing people in the Middle East.
Regarding regional developments, the Monarch commended the important role played by the EU in pushing peace efforts forward and helping the Palestinians and the Israelis return to the negotiating table to arrive at the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The European parliamentarians expressed over a working lunch with the King their appreciation of Jordan's reform endeavour and its efforts to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East.