PARLIAMENTARY VISIT OF H.E. DE DONNEA TO KUWAIT MARCH 2011 REPORT

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1 PARLIAMENTARY VISIT OF H.E. DE DONNEA TO KUWAIT MARCH 2011 REPORT Sunday 20 March 09.30am Meeting with Abdulwahab Al-Bader, Director General of the Kuwait Investment Fund for Arab Economic Development. Brief presentation by M. de Donnea of the purpose of his visit and of the works of the Sahel and West Africa Club oft he OECD and the, both for which he is the Chairman. M. de Donnea cordially invited a representative of the Kuwait Fund to attend as observer the SWAC s next meeting held in Paris in June. The Kuwait Fund does not target recipients on a regional basis, concentrating principally on individual projects in various countries. The Kuwait Fund considers the countries of the Sahel region target countries for its projects. Shared his concerns and interests for the Sahel region, the importance of its security and stability, and the need and role of regional integration for the development of the region. The importance of health and water security issues are crucial questions relevant to the Sahel. On the turmoil hitting the region, a difference must be made between being too patient and impatient. Democracy cannot be built overnight, planning the future needs time. Unfortunately, there is little optimism on the short-term due to lack of patience and the risk of a pendulum effect following the changes resulting from the revolution. GCC countries are willing to concert and assist collaboratively to help countries such as Oman and Bahrain face current situations, as long as long-term goals are clearly mapped out. However, the situation in Yemen is so complex that any concertation of Arab States seems very unlikely. Greater cooperation between the Arab States and the EU is an interesting and potentially successful possibility. Greater economic liberalisation between the two regions will provide positive trends in order to tackle the unemployment of huge numbers of young people, which is at the root of the turmoils in the region.

2 The tribal traditions in countries such as Yemen, Bahrain and Oman are crucial criteria to take into account, as this consideration makes the prevailing of a full-fledged democracy a difficult task to achieve. In Kuwait, the wealth, size and power-sharing system have helped maintaining stability. The system of power-sharing between the Amir and the National Assembly have transformed Kuwait in the most democratically advanced country in the Gulf region. However, any degradation of the situation in neighbouring Saudi Arabia will have dramatic internal and regional effects on a totally different scale than Bahrain and Oman am Visit of the Kuwait Towers 11.00am Meeting with M. Khaled Suleiman Aljarrallah, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Under-Secretary insisted on the positive and meaningful bilateral ties between Kuwait and Belgium, and the need for the support and wisdom of Belgium in maintaining stability in the region. The part played by Belgium in the liberation of Kuwait must not be forgotten. M. de Donnea underlined the importance of preserving these close ties and highlighted, amongst other things, the current collaboration of the he chairs and the Embassy of the State of Kuwait in Brussels. The Under-Secretary offered an overview of events across the region. Both Egypt and Tunisia are now on the right track to achieve something positive, but have been lucky the leaders did not choose to go down the Libyan route. Egypt is the situation all eyes are turned to, as it is a key player in the balance and stability of the region. The international community did well to intervene in Libya, but results must be achieved quickly for the situation to improve in the country. The situation in Yemen is the most complex of all, as the regime is confronted to different waves of protests simultaneously (protests for reforms in Sanaa, movement of creation of a separate regime to the South). In Gulf countries such as Bahrain, it is a very critical and difficult situation with great security implications for Kuwait and GCC countries as a whole. Kuwait does what it can to improve the situation (delegation in Bahrain at work to revive dialogue). As the important Iraqi parliamentary delegation present in Kuwait shows, relations between the two countries are good, despite disagreements over minor details (maintenance of border signs along the Iraq-Kuwait border; improvement and modernisation of Iraqi border control and custom services; recovering bodies of 300 missing Kuwaitis; negotiation of a shipping channel).

3 M. de Donnea confirmed that Belgium had committed military personnel and equipment to the international coalition intervening in Libya. It is now vital for the EU and its Member States to rethink its Neighbourhood Policy to the South, to see how better it can be articulated to the specific needs of the region. But Europe alone cannot solve to problem. Cooperation with other regional bodies such as the GCC must be consolidated. Kuwait and Belgium are in the same boat. Common feeling that the EU-GCC Free Trade Agreement, deadlocked for the past 20 years, should be revived. If the good relations between individual Member States and Gulf states were put together, greater inter-regional coopeation would surely be achieved. Shared concerns over the ongoing instability in countries like Egypt and Tunisia. Risks that that a hugely unemployed youth becomes too impatient for change, creating a pendulum effect of youth who associate democracy and prosperity. Thus enhanced EU-GCC cooperation should provide for trade liberalisation and, in turn, trigger employment and greater stability in the Region The Kuwaiti system of power-sharing between the government and parliament, as well as the influencial role of the latter are guarantees for stability and good governance in Kuwait. In addition, the traditional weekly gatherings, or Dewaniyas, allow people to discuss issues freely in Kuwait s second parliament pm Meeting with Dr. Ali S. Al-Omair, Observer of the Kuwait National Assembly, and Mrs Massouma Mubarak, Member of th Kuwait National Assembly Presentation of the power-sharing system in Kuwait, in which Parliament and government are systematically jointly involved in the decision-making process. With sufficient pressure, the Parliament will always influence decisions taken by the Amir. Any change to the constitution requires approval by the Amir and a 2/3 majority in Parliament. While Ministers are chosen by the Amir (only one chosen by the Parliament), the people elect MPs. Events shaking the Arab world were discussed. M. de Donnea reiterated that the Belgian Parliament had unanimously supported the intervention of the coalition in Libya, but pointed out that the Belgium/EU will refrain from intervening in Bahrain (a Gulf issue) and Yemen (country too big and complex), where there are no imminent threats of massive massacres of civilians. Kuwaiti MPs fear the rising influence in Kuwait of what is happening in Bahrain, both in support of the regime and the demonstrations.

4 In Saudi Arabia, clever move by the King to finance social reforms. But, as the situation has shown throughout the region, there is a big gap between democracy and its implementation. Were also discussed, the need for activists in Egypt and Tunisia to remain patient, the need to restore stability in these countries, the importance of promoting trade liberalisation between the EU and the Arab countries of the Mediterranean and the Gulf (EU-GCC FTA) to provide for greater economic prosperity. The current relations between Iraq and Kuwait were also discussed pm Lunch hosted by MP Saleh Ashour at the Al-Boom Radisson restaurant. Were present: M. de Donnea, M. Ashour, M. Angelet (Ambassador of Belgium to Kuwait), M. Al-Muwaizri (Member of the Kuwait National Assembly) pm Visit of the local souk 07.30pm Réception de la Francophonie at the Residence of the Embassy of Belgium Monday 21 March Visit of the Scientific Center Meeting with H.E. Al-Sharikh, Director General of the Kuwait Diplomatic Institute Description of activities of the KDI: a new body which offers a training center for diplomats, a framework through which academic research will be carried out and the organisation of seminars and conferences. The Institute was built following an extensive investigation into the functionnings of similar centers worldwide. The provides a framework for research and intends to set up training programmes on EU affairs for foreign diplomats. The Egmont Institute in Brussels aspires to similar objectives, in terms of diplomatic training for MFA staff. Having spent several years in Belgium, H.E. Al-Sharikh often refers to Belgium, whose citizens are highly-trained and retrainable, thus offering much professional efficiency and flexibility.

5 The Institute and the MFA as a whole has been lucky of the support given by the Parliament, which has allowed to preserve the credibility of each institution. Regarding the situation in the Arab world, Mr. Al-Sharikh thinks that it is surprising that the outburst of protests did not happen before, the signs have been there for the past 30years. Regimes in place had so far thought internal protests only happened to others, but the people soon realised that they have the power in their hands. It is a crucial time for change; regimes must use this occasion to provide the necessary reforms to trigger prosperity. There is a thin line between doing things too fast and thinking things out carefully. The major challenge will be to overcome the impatience of the people. Things are not over yet, the movement will spill, on varying scales, in all the countries of the region. As for Iraq, relations with Kuwait are improving. Iraq seems to be on the right path towards democracy, which can only benefit the region. Most Iraqi political factions support closer ties with Kuwait. It is vital that the EU recognises the strategic importance of the Gulf and not only through a commercial eye for short-term needs. The economic ties are there to build a close cooperation in all fields. Too often is the EU seen to offer excuses for delaying progress towards greater cooperation pm Lunch with Damien Angelet, Ambassador of Belgium, and Mounif Kilani, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of Belgium 05.00pm Visit of The Avenues commercial mall 07.30pm Reception at the Residence of the Embassy of Belgium with Pierre Marcolini, Belgian chocolatier 09.00pm Visit of the Dewaniya held by H.E. Al-Sharikh Departure of delegation Tuesday 22 march

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