European Union Delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Sultanate of Oman

Saudi Arabia and the EU

30/09/2016 - 17:15
EU relations with Country

The Delegation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia represents the European Union in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and to the Secretariat of the GCC and the Delegation in Abu Dhabi represents the European Union in the UAE and the Delegation in Kuwait represents the European Union in both Kuwait and Qatar.

Over the years, the EU has forged constructive political dialogue with members of the Cooperation Council for Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). These countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.

The Cooperation Agreement, which was concluded in 1988, forms the basis for the relationship that aims at:

  • strengthening the stability in the strategically important region;
  • facilitating the political and economic relations;
  • broadening economic and technical cooperation;
  • further broadening cooperation on energy, industry, trade and services, agriculture, fisheries, investment, science, technology and environment.

Every year, EU foreign ministers meet their GCC counterparts to hold talks on pressing issues. In addition, expert groups have been established to tackle sectoral matters such as macroeconomic questions and energy cooperation.

Cooperation between universities, business and the media also form part of the EU-GCC agenda.

An active EU-GCC Macroeconomic Dialogue has been established and covers topics such as:

  • macroeconomic stability, public finance;
  • fiscal aspects of a single currency;
  • issues related to customs union and the Single Market.

Since 2015, the EU and GCC countries have engaged in discussions related to the challenges of the economic diversification in the Gulf region, namely the development of other sectors and reducing the economy's dependence on oil exports.

The EU has an active trade balance with the GCC countries. The GCC is currently the EU’s fourth largest export market and the EU is the GCC’s largest trading partner.

In 2015, EU exports to the GCC exceeded €111.6 billion, while imports from the Gulf states totalled €44 billion.

The EU exports a wide range of goods and services to the region; however, around 50 % of the EU's exported goods to the GCC are machinery, including:

  • power generation plants;
  • railway locomotives;
  • aircrafts;
  • electrical machinery;
  • mechanical appliances.

 Meanwhile, approximately 70 % of all EU imports from the GCC consist of fuels and their derivatives.


Bilateral trade

The EU strengthens its bilateral relations with the GCC and its members through the Partnership Instrument (PI).

This instrument has replaced the previous Industrialised and High Income Countries Instrument, which focused on deepening bilateral trade and economic relations as well as ties in other related areas.

The PI's overall objective is to advance and promote EU interest by:

  • supporting the external dimension of EU internal policies (e.g. competiveness, research and innovation, migration);
  • addressing major global challenges (e.g. energy security, climate change and environment).

The external projection of the 'Europe 2020' Strategy represents a major strategic component of this PI.

Support delivered under the PI can take different forms, including in particular grant agreements and procurement contracts.


Free trade agreement

The EU and GCC have been engaged in negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) since 1990. The negotiations have faced several challenges and had to be interrupted, namely due to GCC plans to move towards a customs union.

Negotiations were eventually suspended by the GCC in 2008. Informal contact between negotiators has taken place to test whether a basis can nonetheless be found to conclude negotiations, but so far without success.

For information about educational links between the EU and the GCC states, see this website’s travel and study section.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

Horizon 2020 website

Al Jisr

Since July 2008 the EU Delegation has been supporting the Gulf Research Center in a project on “Public Diplomacy and Outreach devoted to the European Union and EU-GCC Relations.” This has been named the Al-Jisr project on GCC-EU Relations.

The project has three main objectives. First, it aims to enhance public and well as professional knowledge and understanding of the EU, its policies and institutions among GCC citizens. Second, it strives to strengthen debate about EU-GCC relations and contribute to the future of policy-making between the two regions. Finally, closer links between the EU and the GCC will be ensured through the dissemination of information on the EU.

More precisely, this project consists of a training, research, workshop, translation and dissemination components. The use of these tools allows for a broad and complete promotion and understanding of the EU-GCC relations. Part of the strategy is to involve many local and European actors that will ensure the quality and the depth of the knowledge of the issues raised. It is believed that the strength of this project lies in the wide cooperation of different organizations which all have specific expertise. This approach allows for the delivering of the best-quality work on all components as this project will have recourse to each partner depending on its area of expertise.

The project aims to raise the level of awareness and knowledge of the EU, its institutions and policies in the Gulf where there is still a lack of basic understanding about what the EU is, how it is structured, and what policies it pursues. The importance was identified of rendering more accessible a maximum amount of information to diplomats and policy-makers who shape the future of the region and to the GCC citizens as future potential students, visitors or trading partners of the EU.

The project also strives to support the EU and the GCC in increasingly harmonising economic policies and collaborating in the design of social and political initiatives of international impact. The Gulf represents emerging thriving economic opportunities and is in a region that is of great importance in maintaining world security. Consequently, it is indispensable that the EU as a unified political and economic block work towards the future shaping of its policies in cooperation with the GCC.

The project attempts to identify new constructive ways of cooperation in addition to reviewing the current status of relations to see whether ties can be improved upon and/or where the main obstacles lie that have prevented cooperation from reaching their potential. The ambition of this project is to promote and renew the EU-GCC relationship which has become more and more intertwined.

The intricacy of the issues and challenges faced by both regions justifies a multi-faceted approach to improving the outreach of the EU-GCC relations.

EU–GCC Clean Energy Network

The EU and the GCC regions are seeking to establish a long term strategic energy relationship with a focus on sustainable, clean and renewable energy. The EU-GCC Clean Energy Network was established to facilitate this relationship and also to create a means (and a practically useful tool) for developing tangible cooperation activities among various actors in the sector, across the EU and the GCC. The network, therefore, aims to respond to the common interests of various actors in the field of clean energy.

The network is involved in increasing knowledge and information among the EU and GCC participants on possibilities for cooperation and joint projects in energy, including through the 7th Community Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7) as well as in increasing awareness among GCC entities on EU policies in the area of clean energy. The network also closely liaises with initiatives in the region in related fields (such as water and the environment) with a view to coordinating efforts and benefiting from collaboration.

The Network emphasises and focuses in particular on these areas:

  • Renewable Energy Sources
  • Energy Demand Side Management & Energy Efficiency
  • Clean Natural Gas & related Clean Technologies
  • Electricity Interconnections & Market Integration
  • Carbon Capture and Storage

Some of the activities and services offered by the network include:

  • experts meetings
  • thematic discussions
  • seminars
  • training sessions
  • high-level conferences
  • preliminary studies in the area of clean energy
  • research exchanges between the GCC and the EU
  • clean energy discussion groups to facilitate collaboration among EU and GCC experts
  • joint demonstration and pilot projects being implemented with participation of EU and GCC entities in the area of clean energy
  • support for the publication of articles in scientific journals on clean energy in EU, GCC regions
  • a web-area to facilitate discussion, dialogue and collaboration among EU and GCC stakeholders on technology, research and policy aspects of clean energy


INCONET-GCC is an intiative that develops and supports dialogue between the two regions of the GCC and the EU by bringing together policymakers and stakeholders from the GCC and EU Member States. It established a dialogue and action platform to identify common interests in research areas, set up Science and technology priorities, support capacity building activities, and enhance the interaction between different cooperation instruments of the European Commission and EU Member States. It will promote actions in order to monitor, develop, promote and contribute to the creation of synergies among the various S&T cooperation programmes between the GCC and the EU Member States, and foster the participation of the GCC in the FP7. In this sense, an observatory of EU-GCC cooperation in S&T will be created in the project framework. The main outputs of INCONET-GCC will be

  • Creation of the INCONET-GCC open networking platform for policy dialogue and the future S&T.
  • Contribution of INCONET-GCC to the European Strategic Framework for International Cooperation is Science and Technology
  • Report on Collaborative plan in S&T policy advisory contributing to the decisions of the GCC-EU Joint Council
  • INCONET-GCC White Paper
  • Integration of the GCC NCPs with the European NCP network
  • INCONET-GCC roadmap and sustainability report
  • Organisation of one International Conference and other dissemination events

INCONET-GCC will be achieved through a high quality, recognized value and expertise consortium. Consortium roles and expertise are complementary and allows for a balanced effort allocation across the different objectives and work packages of INCONET-GCC. INCONET-GCC consortium comprises partners coming from distinguished institutions in Europe and GCC region andincludes representatives of all countries of the Arabian Peninsula, which politically includes the six GCC states and Yemen, which repeatedly seeks to join the GCC six-country block. The Ministry of Education and Scientific Research in Egypt and the Ministry of Higher Education of Morocco are MIRA partners that will act as the liaison with MIRA project and their cultural background is close to those of GCC region. The consortium is flexible and easily manageable.

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