A strategic partnership with the Gulf: Old ties, new impetus

Briefing 01-12-2022

Enhanced and more focused cooperation between the European Union (EU) and member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has become a priority for the EU, with a view to jointly addressing a series of global and regional challenges. Building on strong ties established over decades of a close trading and investment relationship, the EU is now seeking to put relations on a more secure footing, with new impetus and a much broader scope. A joint communication on a strategic partnership with the Gulf, released on 18 May 2022, sets out a path for the EU to develop a closer partnership with the six GCC member states in several priority areas. These include: trade and investment; climate change; energy security and the green transition; global health; global development and humanitarian needs; and peace and stability. On 20 June 2022, the Council approved conclusions on a strategic partnership with the Gulf. Along with the joint communication, these provide an operational roadmap in the abovementioned priority areas. Some experts have expressed concern that the substance of EU-GCC relations may not be sufficient to realise the ambitious plans set out in the joint communication. Others point to the unfulfilled potential of EU-GCC relations and welcome this new impetus. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have maintained regular contacts with Gulf partners, especially through the activities of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the dedicated delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula, and through frequent visits to the region. However, MEPs have on several occasions condemned human rights violations in GCC member states, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE.