A 'MENA Ambassadorial Briefing of the REC' took place on March 10, 2016 at the REC Conference Center in Szentendre, Hungary. The purpose of the event was to deliver information about the cooperation of the REC with countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, with a concrete focus on the international organisation's strategy, projects and activities for sustainable development.
Attending the high-level event were ambassadors and counsellors from Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine and Yemen. The presentation panel for the event comprised (in order of speaking) H. E. Jari Vilen, Head of Delegation, EU Delegation to the Council of Europe, and Chair of the REC Board of Directors; Istvan Joo, Ministerial Commissioner for the Implementation of the Danube Region Strategy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hungary, and Member of the REC Board of Directors; H.E. Niclas Trouve, Ambassador of Sweden in Hungary (video statement); Marta Szigeti Bonifert, Executive Director of the REC; Timo Makela, Senior Advisor, Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra), former Global & Regional Challenges, LIFE, DG Environment, European Commission, and Member of the REC Board of Directors; and Radoje Lausevic, Deputy Executive Director of the REC.
The opening speakers summarised REC activities in the MENA region, highlighted current partnerships and extended an invitation to those in attendance to pursue active partnerships for the future. Lausevic gave a brief overview of an ongoing project, 'Sustainable Use of Transboundary Water Resources and Water Security Management' (WATER SUM), which the REC is carrying out in partnership with Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. HE mentioned also that the MENA region will be featured during World Water Week, to be held in August in Stockholm, Sweden, where the REC will organise the World Water Café 2016.
REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert then announced the forthcoming conference 'Water, Growth and Stability: Transboundary Cooperation for Sustainable Growth and Stability in MENA', which the REC will host on April 26-28, 2016. Istvan Joo followed with some words about the next High Level Water Summit in Budapest, which will happen on November 28-30, 2016.
The floor was then open for comments and questions from the attending ambassadors, and a valuable exchange between the guests and panellists took up the rest of the session. Several of the ambassadors kindly granted the REC's invitation to deliver a video-recorded statement about partnership and cooperation opportunities between the organisation and their respective countries. The REC would especially like to thank H.E. Abdelkader Dehendi (Algeria), H.E. Mahmoud Assem Mahmoud Elmaghraby (Egypt), H.E. Dr. Hamad Mohammad H. M. Burhamah (Kuwait), H.E. Hammad Abdullah Dahan Hammad (Yemen), and H.E. Marie Antoinette Sedin (Palestine) for delivering statements that will undoubtedly be helpful in promoting REC efforts to broaden and strengthen cooperative ties with countries in the MENA region.