Former EU Official Urges Free-trade Deal Between Europe and GCC Countries

  • 20 February 2014

The European Union will continue to work on a free trade agreement with the GCC this year, the former secretary general of the EU Council said yesterday.

With this in mind, Gulf states should work towards achieving a free trade agreement between the GCC and the European Union, Dr Javier Solana, the former high representative for the Security and Foreign Policy of the EU, said.

“It’s more important today than it was a few years ago,” said Dr Solana, who gave a lecture on Europe’s view this year, regarding trade, at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. “Because as far as trade is concerned, a lot is taking place in the world and a lot will take place this year. If all goes well in 2014, there will be a very important trade agreement between the EU and the US, and another important trade agreement with countries from Asia.”

He said the world would change considerably if these agreements were to take place. “With countries from the GCC, we’ve been engaged in a very intense manner.

“We have not been able to finish a free trade agreement but a number of trials took place and the big solid relationship between the EU and the Gulf has been very profound. I think the bilateral relation between EU trade and the GCC should be revisited in that context and the EU Council is ready to try to give a push in these new circumstances and see if they can finalise that agreement.”

An agreement would benefit both the EU and the GCC, he added. “Take a step forward on the trade agreement, we will do it. Try to move in that direction. It seems to me that’s some work that has to be finished. It’ll be good for both the EU and the GCC and it’ll give a sense of unity, which is important. We have to think about tomorrow and something has to be done.”

Dr Solana said Gulf countries should also work towards more unification to be able to solve regional problems more efficiently. “It’s very important to have a structure of political integration.

“You can say we have the Arab League but it’s not enough – you need something much more integrated politically.”

He said today’s world had become globalised and the GCC should look into becoming more “molecular than atomic”.

“The EU is a fantastic molecule. Like any molecule, it produced much more good than the atoms separated and it provides tremendous capacity to do better for themselves and for the world. If we want to govern this globalised world, moving in that direction would be good, for Gulf countries in particular”

The idea of a common currency is one that Gulf countries should not lose vision of, he said. “The world will benefit a lot if the GCC leads in that process. We live in a global world but we still don’t have the global institutions that the world merits.”

In relation to energy, Dr Solana said its context and geopolitics had changed radically in the last few years. “The US today is practically autonomous of energy. And it’s a change for the Gulf now but, at the same time, the GCC has the sense that maybe the US and the EU are withdrawing from this region. This isn’t true for the EU and I hope it isn’t for the US. You may be in a situation of discomfort but the EU would like to give as much comfort as possible and I understand the Gulf may have doubts about the US’s eventual position.”