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The EU and the UAE have developed a diplomatic relationship centred on common political and regional interests. The EU opened a Delegation in Abu Dhabi in the second half of 2013 as a testimony to its commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation. The UAE also hosts the embassies of 22 EU countries. Relations with the EU previously existed under the 1988 EU-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Cooperation Agreement, a region to region relationship with the countries of the GCC.
The EU and the UAE have a joint interest in ensuring stability in the Middle Eastern region. The UAE has been increasingly active on the regional and global scene, proving to be a solid and reliable partner for the EU in several fields, including counter-terrorism, energy, environment, climate change, non-proliferation and economic dialogue.
EU-UAE cooperation on counter-terrorism has progressed considerably in recent years, particularly through an agreement to hold annual political counter-terrorism dialogue sessions. The UAE also hosts the Hedayah Countering Violent Extremism Centre in Abu Dhabi, of which the EU is one of the eight board members.
In addition, the UAE has been hosting a regional secretariat of the European Union Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear threats (CBRN) Centres of Excellence for risk mitigation since June 2014. This initiative is funded by the European Instrument for Stability and aims at developing, nationally and regionally, the institutional capacity needed to fight CBRN risks.
On maritime security, the EU has spearheaded international efforts in the Indian Ocean to contain and deter piracy and has shared interest in the Horn of Africa and in the safety of shipping lines which has led to closer EU-UAE cooperation.
Bilateral trade between the EU and the UAE is considerable and complementary, reaching a value of over €55 billion. The EU has a large trade surplus of almost €50 billion with the UAE. In 2015, the UAE was the EU’s seventh-largest export destination. The European economy, for its part, was the UAE’s single largest trading partner, representing 11.5 % of foreign trade.
Trade between the EU and the UAE exists under the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council, an important regional organization which, in addition to the Emirates, also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The GCC countries have formed their own customs union and are aiming to complete an internal market. The EU and GCC are cooperating on trade, investment, and other issues. The EU exports a diverse array of manufactured products to the GCC, while importing fuels, mining products, and chemicals. The GCC is the EU’s fourth-largest export destination.