EU relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

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Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC)Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC)

The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC, officially The Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf or CCASG) 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.

Political relations

The EU established bilateral relations with the GCC countries through the 1988 Cooperation Agreement, intended to:

  • strengthen stability in a region of strategic importance
  • facilitate political and economic relations
  • broaden economic and technical cooperation
  • broaden cooperation on energy, industry, trade and services, agriculture, fisheries, investment, science, technology and environment


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 Manama, Bahrain on 30 June 2013 (previous one in Luxemburg on 25 June 2012), co-chaired by the EU High Representative-Vice President Ashton and Bahraini Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa. The next ministerial meeting is due to take place in 2014 in Europe.

The EU and the GCC had 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, and are currently engaging on a new document guiding their cooperation.

The EU Delegation in Saudi Arabia is accredited to five GCC countries (Bahrain, KSA, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar). A second EU Delegation has been opened in Abu Dhabi in the second half of 2013 and covers the United Arab Emirates.


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 2008. Further informal contacts have been taking place ever since. The EU remains committed to concluding the agreement.

Industrialised and High-Income Countries Instrument (ICI)

The EU's ICI fund for cooperation with high-income countries is the framework for financial cooperation between the EU and the Gulf region (and other high-income countries). Amongst other projects, the ICI has financed the EU-GCC Clean Energy Network for cooperation on clean energy among various players in the EU and GCC.