The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) is a regional organisation, with 6 members: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. Set up in 1981, its objectives are to enhance coordination, integration and inter-connection among its members. All GCC members are also members of the Arab League and Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are the prominent members of OPEC.
The EU established bilateral relations with the GCC countries through the 1988 Cooperation Agreement, intended to:
The Agreement provides for annual joint councils/ministerial meetings (between the EU and the GCC foreign ministers), and for joint cooperation committees at senior officials' level.
The most recent EU-GCC ministerial meeting took place in Luxembourg on 25 June 2012, co-chaired by High Representative-Vice President Ashton and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal. The next ministerial meeting is due to take place on 1 July 2013 in Bahrain.
The EU and the GCC agreed on a Joint Action Programme for 2010-13, setting out a roadmap for closer cooperation on issues such as ICTs, nuclear safety, clean energy, research, and economic dialogue.
The EU Delegation in Saudi Arabia is accredited to all six GCC countries. A second Delegation will be opened in the United Arab Emirates in 2013.
The GCC is theEU's fifth largest export market (€75 bn's worth of exports in 2011), and the EU is the grouping's biggest trading partner, with trade flows totalling €130 billion, or 13.5% of the GCC's global trade.
The 1988 Cooperation Agreement contained a commitment from both sides to enter into negotiations on a free trade agreement. Negotiations have started and been suspended several times since 1990. Negotiations resumed in March 2002, but were suspended by the GCC in 2010. Further informal contacts have been taking place ever since. The EU remains committed to concluding the agreement.