‘Treat every person as a special soul’:H.H. Sheikh Abdullah says every citizen should follow this saying of father Zayed.

“To treat every person, no matter what his creed or race, as a special soul, is a mark of Islam.”

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, picked these golden words from one of the late Sheikh Zayed’s sayings, which he believes, every citizen should, memorise and live by.

His Highness added, “To me personally, those words demonstrate a passionate belief in humanity, and highlight Sheikh Zayed’s unrelenting pursuit of equality and dignity for all.”

In an interview given to the European Union Delegation to the UAE in Abu Dhabi on the occasion of the opening of the ‘EU-UAE: Sheikh Zayed and Europe’ exhibition, he said, “I hope these wise words will inspire others as they have inspired me.”

“My father was born exactly 100 years ago, and at the time he was born, the UAE was not yet a country,” he noted, adding, in a relatively short period of time, his father succeeded in uniting seven emirates into a federation, transforming desert lands into a modern nation state. “He would be immensely proud if he could see the UAE’s standing in the world today, and how far Emiratis have carried his vision.”

The exhibition which begins on Saturday evening will continue until 31st December at the Founder’s Memorial in Abu Dhabi. It is showcasing a car used by Sheikh Zayed, in addition to many other European-made items like sunglasses, stamps, perfumes and other stuff he used during his life.

He would undoubtedly be proud that in the Arab Youth Survey, the UAE is consistently identified as the nation most young Arabs would like their country to emulate, Sheikh Abdullah believes, adding, “the UAE today is a country that people from around the world want to travel to, a country that is a global hub for goods, services, people and ideas, and that is innovating boldly in creating the society of knowledge, investing heavily in areas such as renewable energy and artificial intelligence.”

He continued, “Last year, we hosted around 20 million international visitors. Today, Dubai is one of the most popular cities in the world for tourism, on par with cities like Paris and London. He (Sheikh Zayed) would also be proud that with a GDP of 400 billion dollars, our economy is the second biggest in the Middle East, and the most diversified in the region.”

This was a journey of tremendous transformation for a nation that, for centuries, depended on the seasonal pearl industry for much of its trade. And perhaps most of all, he would be proud that around 200 nationalities live and work side by side in the UAE, in social and religious harmony, Sheikh Abdullah said.

When asked to share his most memorable time spent with his father during his first ever trip to Europe, Sheikh Abdullah said, “One of my first trips to Europe with my father, Sheikh Zayed, was to Switzerland, and one of my favorite memories from that trip is our time walking together in the beautiful city of Lausanne, with a view to the shimmering waters of Lake Geneva. To this day, Lausanne reminds me of these sunny walks with my father, and Switzerland continues to enjoy an outstanding reputation in the UAE, and is a popular destination for Emiratis.”

When asked what would he like the youth today to know about the late Founding Father in his role as a global figure, and his role as a father? His Highness said, “Many have wondered why Sheikh Zayed was so admired and much loved by his people and the world. My short answer would be that he had an exceptionally loving, compassionate and giving nature. In a world troubled by crises and conflicts, Sheikh Zayed was a man of peace, a bridge builder who promoted openness, tolerance and generosity through his speech and actions.

“Sheikh Zayed was not only my father, but the father of all UAE nationals and residents living in the UAE.”

Sheikh Abdullah went on to say how Sheikh Zayed was fully committed the well-being and happiness of his people, investing heavily in the development and modernisation of his country so as to ensure optimal services including building schools, universities, hospitals, and orphanages at home while extending a hand of friendship and help to individuals and nations abroad.

“He relentlessly pursued equal rights for women and created opportunities for them to pursue higher education and enter the workforce. And his majlis, a traditional Arab Gulf forum for discussions and debates, he was always open to the public. He encouraged everyone to come to him with any problem, however big or small,” His Highness added.

At the international level, Sheikh Zayed laid the foundations for an active foreign policy inspired by his wisdom and moderation, based on the need to ensure an equilibrium in international relations and to stand up for truth and justice, while maintaining a language of dialogue and understanding with all interlocutors.

“This balanced approach has since become a hallmark of the UAE’s foreign policy. Because he was trusted, Sheikh Zayed was held in high regard by Foreign and Arab leaders, and he was often called upon to mediate complex disputes between states. He also earned a strong reputation as a humanist and philanthropist, supporting a significant number of humanitarian causes across the world,” Sheikh Abdullah stated.

About the ‘EU-UAE: Sheikh Zayed and Europe’ exhibition, he said, “It is a great honor for me to be a patron of this exhibition that pays a special tribute to Sheikh Zayed, who was instrumental in establishing strong ties between the UAE and the EU, based on the key values of friendship and unity in diversity.”

This exhibition is an important celebration of achievements, as well as an excellent way to celebrate the friendship between the EU and UAE, he added.

He said that Europe and the Gulf region share deep historical links, and the United Arab Emirates, as a major oil producer and a strategic commercial and financial centre, had developed strong ties with a number of European nations on a bilateral level in its early years. However, formal relations between the EU and the UAE were first established within the framework of the 1988 EU-Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, Cooperation Agreement, which was a region-to-region relationship.

“Our relations have since grown, not only through a vigorous economic agenda focused on trade and investment, but also through ever-strengthening collaboration in the fields of security, development, humanitarian aid, energy, education and culture,” Sheikh Abdullah noted.

“Today, the EU and the UAE enjoy strong diplomatic relations centered on common political and regional interests. The EU is one of the UAE’s most important trade partners. We host the embassies of 22 EU countries, and in 2013, the EU opened a delegation in Abu Dhabi, which is a testimony to the friendship and remarkable momentum in EU-UAE relations.”

Sheikh Abdullah said another important milestone was the EU’s decision in May 2015 to waive the visa requirement for UAE citizens travelling to the Schengen Area, which made the UAE the first Arab country to receive this visa waiver. More recently, “We signed a Cooperation Arrangement between the European External Action Service and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in January 2018, which will further scale up our relations through an intensification of political dialogue and cooperation on key strategic issues of mutual interest.”

The UAE and the EU have a joint interest in a stable Middle East, and the UAE has been always active on the regional and global scene, proving to be a solid and reliable partner for the EU in many areas, including in the fields of counter-terrorism, energy, environment, climate change, and non-proliferation.

Sheikh Abdullah went on to say, “I am happy to note that our cooperation on counter-terrorism has progressed considerably in recent years and that it was particularly facilitated by an agreement to hold regular political dialogue sessions. There has also been closer EU-UAE cooperation on maritime security, and we appreciate the leadership role the EU plays in international efforts to counter piracy in the Indian Ocean. We also have a shared interest in the Horn of Africa and believe that international shipping lanes must be kept safe at all times. I hope our partnership in all these areas, and many others, will continue to strengthen in the future.”

About Sheikh Zayed’s perception on the establishment of the European Union and his relationship with their heads of state, Sheikh Abdullah said, “The European Union started as an economic partnership between several European countries, and eventually expanded into an economic and political partnership that covers most of Europe.

“From the start, this partnership was built on a vision of shared interests and values, shared resources, and shared commitment to peace and prosperity. This was a vision that greatly resonated with Sheikh Zayed’s own vision for the lands that now make up the UAE. It was also the vision that was behind his drive for the establishment of the GCC.

“Travelling abroad in the 1950s and 1960s, he was inspired by what he saw in Europe, and wanted the same for his people. And with the new revenues generated by oil sales, he was able to embark upon major construction and development projects at home, to ensure that the people benefitted from their wealth, and to work for unity and federation in the region.”

“Sheikh Zayed met most of the European leaders of his epoch and developed warm and friendly relations with all of them. This included Heads of State such as the Queen of the UK, the Kings of Spain and Belgium, the Chancellors of Germany and Austria, and the successive Presidents of France. It also included politicians and Prime Ministers such as Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher,” Sheikh Abdullah concluded.

Source: UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs