European and Arab leaders called for the strengthening of the regional strategic partnership to address today’s common challenges and pave the way to prosperity for all during a meeting hosted here on Tuesday.

“A Strategic Partnership” was the title of the 4th Euro-Arab World Summit which drew hundreds of attendees from dozens of European and Arab countries, including Heads of State and Government, EU Officials, Ministers and Business Leaders.

The goal of the two-day event is to further promote dialogue between the two blocs to find common answers to challenges such as the refugee-migration issue and climate change, and also help identify key priority areas for cooperation, such as energy, trade, science, technology and healthcare.

The geographical proximity and strong bonds throughout centuries leave no option to Europe and the Arab world than stronger collaboration which will be beneficial for both sides, Tawfic Khoury, Chairman of the Al-Iktissad Wal-Aamal conference organising group, which organised the Athens meeting, said in the opening remarks.

“When an Arab country looks for economic development and prosperity, it is Europe that comes to mind as natural choice and reliable partner. This reality is shown in the fact that the EU has been consistently the largest trading partner of the Arab region in goods, services and capital investment,” he noted.

“This bridge of friendship between the two sides of the Mediterranean is converted into our positive answer to the faults and fissures which appear across the world,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said addressing the event.

With Greece at the forefront of the refugee- migrant influx in the EU in recent years, the Greek leader put emphasis on this challenge, calling for deeper cooperation to tackle it effectively.

“Our solidarity and humanity are being put to the test together of course with our readiness to combat organised crime,” he said.

“What is needed is more coordination between the Europeans and the Arabs in order to address the causes. There should be sustainable peace at the heart of the crisis and serious support to the countries of origin and transit. There is also need for more cooperation in the fight against criminal networks for the trafficking of migrants in order to stop this vicious trade of hope,” he stressed.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the League of Arab States, warmly supported the call for cooperation, noting that both sides should also acknowledge the mistakes made in order to change course in the future.

On her part, representing a country which is on the EU accession process, Ana Brnabic, Prime Minister of Serbia, underlined the need of widening and enhancing cooperation with other countries and blocs as well.

“The 65 percent of our exports go to the EU market, but we also have a very strong cooperation with China and especially through the Belt & Road Initiative,” she said.

“We should go back to basics and talk more about dialogue and cooperation instead of protectionism,” she concluded.