EU-GCC : 20th  Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting (14 June 2010)

The European Union and the States of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) met in Luxemburg on June 14, 2010 for the 20th Session of the Joint Council. The EU Delegation was led by H.E. High Representative Catherine Ashton. The GCC Delegation (Member States of the GCC include: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain) was led by H.E. Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al Salim Al-Sabah, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait, which currently holds the Presidency of the GCC. H.E. Abdulrahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Secretary General of the GCC, represented the GCC Secretariat.

In preparation for the 20th Session of the Joint Council, officials of both parties had previously met in Brussels for the Joint Cooperation Committee on April 12, 2010 and the Regional Directors’ Meeting on April 13, 2010.

The Session first concentrated on the state of EU-GCC relations, during which officials of the EU and the GCC States endorsed the EU-GCC Joint Action Programme negotiated during the Senior Officials meeting held in Riyadh on February 9-10, 2010, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in areas of strategic mutual interests over the next three years. Both parties welcomed greater cooperation in the field of energy – such as the 10th EU-GCC Energy Experts’ Group of June 2, 2010 – and, most particularly, nuclear safety and security. Greater common efforts in fields such as climate change and environmental protection; global economic and financial issues; trade promotion, investment; transport; and cultural cooperation were strongly supported. Plans to pursue consultations on the pending Free-Trade Agreement between both regions and the need to conclude negotiations sooner rather than later were revived by the Joint Council.

The EU and the GCC discussed a number of regional and international issues, on which they reiterated a need to enhance political dialogue to come to “common solutions” to “common challenges”.

The Joint Council reviewed the situation of Middle East peace process. The EU and the GCC discussed the Israeli operation against the Flotilla on May 31 and the need for an “impartial” and “transparent” enquiry, and also expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip. Reiterating the importance of peace in the Middle East for international security, both parties called for an end to acts of violence and the search for peace through negotiations, reiterated the Quartet’s support for “proximity talks” between Israel and Palestine and underlined their unchanged support for the Arab Peace Initiative. Members of the Joint Council stressed that the building of Israeli settlement on occupied territory goes against international law and that all would not recognize changes made to the borders set before 1967. Finally, the EU and the GCC underlined the importance of “securing Palestinian reconciliation”.

The EU and the GCC condemned all acts of violence persisting in Iraq and stressed the importance for Iraq to complete its democratic process, with particular reference to the general elections held on March 7, 2010. The promotion of peace, stability and security in Iraq remain a primary position for both parties, in which the UN/UNAMI will play an important role. Iraq should be supported in its efforts for stability and national reconciliation, which is the solution to Iraq’s current problems.  A special mention was made to the UN efforts for the repatriation of Kuwaiti prisoners and other Kuwaiti property.

The Joint Council called Iran to comply with UNSC and IAEA resolutions and the need for the Persian State to “restore confidence” in its peaceful nuclear ambitions. This issue called for greater dialogue, for which Turkish and Brazilian efforts were welcome. Both sides stressed the need to progress towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute between Iran and the UAE over the islands of Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb.

The return to calm along the Saudi Arabia – Yemen border was welcomed by the Joint Council, which agreed for a need of a comprehensive approach for the development of a “unified, democratic and prosperous” Yemen.

The EU and the GCC both condemned terrorism and the financing of terrorism and called all countries to implement and ratify the UN counter-terrorism protocols and conventions, UNSC resolutions and support for the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Special reference was made to the recommendations made during the Riyadh International Conference on fighting terrorism as well as the opening of the International Center for Counterterrorism in The Hague.

The Joint Council reiterated concerns over piracy threats, for which they welcomed the UNSC resolution 1918 and stressed the need for greater collaboration and the protection of ships of the coasts of Somalia, while respecting territorial sovereignty and integrity.

The EU and the GCC underlined the security threat of the proliferation of WMDs and their support for the prevention of proliferation, which starts by the implementation of respective non-proliferation treaties. The establishment of a weapons-free zone in the Middle East and the Gulf Region was an objective for the future, while not detaching any importance to the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear power. Both sides confirmed their participation and cooperation in the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 2011.

Views were exchanged on human rights and both parties expressed commitments to promoting human rights in line with the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights.

Finally, both parties stressed the importance of intercultural, interfaith and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. The EU and the GCC welcomed the Alliance of Civilisations and that all members of the Joint Council are part of the Group of Friends of the Alliance. With the next Alliance Forum to be held in Qatar in 2011, they hope to increase its visibility in the region.  Special mention was made of the role of the Joint European Commission – Arab League Liaison Office in Malta and other initiatives in enhancing intercultural and interfaith dialogue.

The next Joint Council will take place in the United Arab Emirates in 2011.

For more information, consult the official Joint Communiqué of the 20th EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting, Luxemburg, 14 June 2010 (Council of the EU – 11700/10 PRESSE 197)

The European Union and the States of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) met in Luxemburg on June 14, 2010 for the 20th Session of the Joint Council. The EU Delegation was led by H.E. High Representative Catherine Ashton. The GCC Delegation (Member States of the GCC include: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain) was led by H.E. Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Sabah Al Salim Al-Sabah, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait, which currently holds the Presidency of the GCC. H.E. Abdulrahman Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, Secretary General of the GCC, represented the GCC Secretariat.
In preparation for the 20th Session of the Joint Council, officials of both parties had previously met in Brussels for the Joint Cooperation Committee on April 12, 2010 and the Regional Directors’ Meeting on April 13, 2010.
The Session first concentrated on the state of EU-GCC relations, during which officials of the EU and the GCC States endorsed the EU-GCC Joint Action Programme negotiated during the Senior Officials meeting held in Riyadh on February 9-10, 2010, with the aim of strengthening cooperation in areas of strategic mutual interests over the next three years. Both parties welcomed greater cooperation in the field of energy – such as the 10th EU-GCC Energy Experts’ Group of June 2, 2010 – and, most particularly, nuclear safety and security. Greater common efforts in fields such as climate change and environmental protection; global economic and financial issues; trade promotion, investment; transport; and cultural cooperation were strongly supported. Plans to pursue consultations on the pending Free-Trade Agreement between both regions and the need to conclude negotiations sooner rather than later were revived by the Joint Council.
The EU and the GCC discussed a number of regional and international issues, on which they reiterated a need to enhance political dialogue to come to “common solutions” to “common challenges”.
The Joint Council reviewed the situation of Middle East peace process. The EU and the GCC discussed the Israeli operation against the Flotilla on May 31 and the need for an “impartial” and “transparent” enquiry, and also expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip. Reiterating the importance of peace in the Middle East for international security, both parties called for an end to acts of violence and the search for peace through negotiations, reiterated the Quartet’s support for “proximity talks” between Israel and Palestine and underlined their unchanged support for the Arab Peace Initiative. Members of the Joint Council stressed that the building of Israeli settlement on occupied territory goes against international law and that all would not recognize changes made to the borders set before 1967. Finally, the EU and the GCC underlined the importance of “securing Palestinian reconciliation”.
The EU and the GCC condemned all acts of violence persisting in Iraq and stressed the importance for Iraq to complete its democratic process, with particular reference to the general elections held on March 7, 2010. The promotion of peace, stability and security in Iraq remain a primary position for both parties, in which the UN/UNAMI will play an important role. Iraq should be supported in its efforts for stability and national reconciliation, which is the solution to Iraq’s current problems.  A special mention was made to the UN efforts for the repatriation of Kuwaiti prisoners and other Kuwaiti property.
The Joint Council called Iran to comply with UNSC and IAEA resolutions and the need for the Persian State to “restore confidence” in its peaceful nuclear ambitions. This issue called for greater dialogue, for which Turkish and Brazilian efforts were welcome. Both sides stressed the need to progress towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute between Iran and the UAE over the islands of Abu Musa, Lesser Tunb and Greater Tunb.
The return to calm along the Saudi Arabia – Yemen border was welcomed by the Joint Council, which agreed for a need of a comprehensive approach for the development of a “unified, democratic and prosperous” Yemen.
The EU and the GCC both condemned terrorism and the financing of terrorism and called all countries to implement and ratify the UN counter-terrorism protocols and conventions, UNSC resolutions and support for the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Special reference was made to the recommendations made during the Riyadh International Conference on fighting terrorism as well as the opening of the International Center for Counterterrorism in The Hague.
The Joint Council reiterated concerns over piracy threats, for which they welcomed the UNSC resolution 1918 and stressed the need for greater collaboration and the protection of ships of the coasts of Somalia, while respecting territorial sovereignty and integrity.
The EU and the GCC underlined the security threat of the proliferation of WMDs and their support for the prevention of proliferation, which starts by the implementation of respective non-proliferation treaties. The establishment of a weapons-free zone in the Middle East and the Gulf Region was an objective for the future, while not detaching any importance to the promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear power. Both sides confirmed their participation and cooperation in the negotiation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 2011.
Views were exchanged on human rights and both parties expressed commitments to promoting human rights in line with the Univeral Declaration of Human Rights. Finally, both parties stressed the importance of intercultural, interfaith and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. The EU and the GCC welcomed the Alliance of Civilisations and that all members of the Joint Council are part of the Group of Friends of the Alliance. With the next Alliance Forum to be held in Qatar in 2011, they hope to increase its visibility in the region.  Special mention was made of the role of the Joint European Commission – Arab League Liaison Office in Malta and other initiatives in enhancing intercultural and interfaith dialogue.
The next Joint Council will take place in the United Arab Emirates in 2011.

For more information, consult the official Joint Communiqué of the 20th EU-GCC Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting, Luxemburg, 14 June 2010 (Council of the EU – 11700/10 PRESSE 197)