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The European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council

By Ana Echagüe (01/05/2007) Working Paper

Despite increased European foreign policy coordination and presence in most areas of the world the Gulf region and more specifically the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) continue to represent an area of neglect.

One need only compare policies towards the Gulf with policies towards the North African and Middle Eastern states included within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) to witness this deficit.

Despite the shortcomings of the EMP this initiative represents a coordinated and embedded European strategy towards the southern Mediterranean that has not been extended to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

This is all the more surprising given the fact that the Arabian Peninsula concentrates several pivotal issues of international concern, including energy security, Middle Eastern regional security, counterterrorism and debates over Arab democratic reform.

European weight in this region remains negligible, and the EU as a collective entity has failed to develop a comprehensive and coherent policy towards this crucial part of the Middle East.

This neglect is explained by two European judgements: first, that the Gulf does not present the kind of acute geopolitical urgency that would merit paying the costs associated with a greater engagement in the region; second, that the EU has negligible capacity to affect social, economic or political change in the Gulf and that its interests are thus best served by stability-oriented caution.

Such judgements might contain a healthy dose of realism; but the EU may also pay a price for its passivity in the Gulf.

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Political reform in the Arab World. Yemen. Saudi Arabia. Democratisation. Gulf Cooperation Council.

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Dear Friends and Colleagues,

FRIDE ceased its think tank activities on 31st December 2015 for economic reasons. The Board of Trustees had to take this difficult decision since, despite many efforts to diversify its funding sources, FRIDE cannot sustain its think tank operations with a view to 2016 and beyond.

Established in 1999, FRIDE has made a major contribution to shape debate on Europe’s external activities in an increasingly challenging international environment. It has covered issues ranging from democracy and human rights to sustainable development, new approaches to multilateral cooperation and security affairs. FRIDE’s long-standing focus on the extended neighbourhood of the European Union proves today all the more relevant given widespread turbulence in the region. FRIDE’s emphasis on the importance of the values framing Europe’s external activities is central to current political debates in Europe and beyond. This shows the need for continued engagement in the pursuit of a common European foreign policy that is both effective and informed by the core values of European integration.

The Board wishes to thank Diego Hidalgo, FRIDE’s founder, for his tireless commitment and very generous support for many years. The Board also wishes to thank FRIDE’s dedicated staff, the members of the Board and the Advisory Committee for their contribution in making FRIDE one of the top foreign policy think tanks in Europe. We are very grateful to all those who have supported FRIDE’s work and projects over the years and we thank the many partners from all parts of the world who have worked with FRIDE on joint initiatives. We hope that FRIDE’s extensive input to the debate on Europe in the world will continue to inform thinking and action at a very critical time for Europe’s future.

The President of the Board


FRIDE cesó sus actividades como think tank el 31 de diciembre de 2015 por razones económicas. El Patronato tuvo que adoptar esta difícil decisión dado que, a pesar de los intensos esfuerzos realizados para diversificar sus fuentes de financiación, FRIDE no puede sostener sus operaciones como think tank a partir de 2016.

Establecido en 1999, FRIDE ha realizado una gran contribución al debate sobre las actividades exteriores de Europa en un ambiente internacional cada vez más complejo. Ha trabajado en temas que van desde la democracia y los derechos humanos al desarrollo sostenible, los nuevos enfoques en la cooperación multilateral y las cuestiones de seguridad. La atención prestada por FRIDE a la vecindad extendida de la Unión Europea durante mucho tiempo prueba ser hoy aún más relevante debido a la turbulencia que azota a la región. El énfasis de FRIDE en la importancia de los valores que enmarcan las actividades exteriores europeas es central en los debates en Europa y más allá. Esto muestra la necesidad de un compromiso continuo con la búsqueda de una política exterior europea común que sea eficaz y esté basada en los principios fundamentales de la integración europea.

El Patronato desea agradecer a Diego Hidalgo, fundador de FRIDE, por su incansable compromiso y muy generoso apoyo a lo largo de tantos años. También quiere expresar su gratitud a la dedicada plantilla, a los propios miembros del Patronato y del Comité Asesor por sus contribuciones para hacer de FRIDE uno de los principales think tanks de Europa en cuestiones de política exterior. Estamos muy agradecidos con todos aquellos que han apoyado el trabajo y los proyectos de FRIDE a través de los años y también damos las gracias a los numerosos socios de todas partes del mundo que han colaborado con FRIDE en iniciativas conjuntas. Esperamos que las extensas aportaciones de FRIDE al debate sobre Europa en el mundo continuará informando el pensamiento y la acción en un momento muy crítico para el futuro de Europa.

El Presidente del Patronato

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