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- European Union
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
4. A partnership for regional stability and global security
Preserving peace, security and stability in the wider Gulf region is a key priority for the EU, and an important shared interest with the GCC and its Member States and other international and regional partners. Instability in the wider Gulf region has a direct bearing on the EU’s security and economic interests, and reverberates not only in the EU’s neighbourhood but also in other areas of common interest such as the Horn of Africa and the Sahel. With Gulf states increasingly active in their own region and in the broader Middle East and beyond, it is clear that lasting stability in the EU’s broader neighbourhood will require close cooperation with them.
There have been positive steps taken by the Gulf countries recently, such as the Al Ula Agreement marking an end to the ‘GCC rift’, the normalisation agreements with Israel and the steps of some GCC Member States to resume or deepen dialogue with Iran. These developments offer an opportunity for the Gulf countries to improve wider regional stability based on respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law and on an agreed set of shared interests as well as universal principles and values, such as good neighbourly relations, non-interference in domestic affairs, peaceful resolution of disputes and non-proliferation, and through building progressively a regional security architecture. It would also offer a useful platform for engaging on broader societal issues and economic integration. The EU, as a successful peace project itself, can be a valuable partner in supporting these goals.
The EU coordinates efforts to ensure the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA, which can contribute to comprehensive and lasting efforts to ensure that the Gulf region remains permanently free of nuclear weapons and in itself can help address other regional issues. A positive conclusion of the Vienna negotiations aimed at facilitating a return to the JCPOA by the United States and resumption of full implementation of all JCPOA commitments by the United States and Iran could provide a platform for further efforts to reduce tensions and build confidence in the wider region. Of course, the countries of the region - on both sides of the Gulf – should lead and guide such efforts, but the EU and the wider international community can and should offer support and advice. In this context, the EU will be ready to engage with the GCC, its Member States, with Iran and other key states in the region, in a gradual and inclusive approach, in full transparency and with the ultimate objective of developing arrangements which provide for greater security for all countries in the Gulf region.
To this end, the EU could work on dialogue, transparency and confidence building measures and share expertise in fields such as maritime safety/security; conflict prevention and mediation, disaster preparedness and response; chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) safety; countering terrorism; cyber security and countering disinformation.
In addition, a dedicated political-military dialogue with GCC and its Member States could facilitate the exchange of information on military exercises, policy and budgets, voluntary measures to improve transparency in armaments, arms control arrangements in support of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Ottawa-Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, and on the effective implementation of non-proliferation agreements. This dialogue could be complemented by military-to-military contacts.
These activities could in the medium and long-term lead to a structured EU-facilitated dialogue process that could gradually contribute to a more inclusive regional security architecture. The regional Baghdad Conference on Cooperation and Partnership, and its follow-up process with EU involvement, could serve as a useful example for region-led processes.
Improved cooperation on maritime security, on the basis of international law, could help enhance the rules-based order at sea, including freedom of navigation and overflight. This could include de-confliction channels, sharing maritime information, incident prevention and codes of conduct. EU Operation ATALANTA’s growing regional presence creates a space for such engagement. The EU could also explore additional cooperation through the European-led maritime awareness in the Strait of Hormuz operation, which aims to support a safer navigation environment and de-escalation. An EU-Coordinated Maritime Presence in the North Western Indian Ocean, and the creation of the EU Maritime Area of Interest, in line with the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategy, could also provide a wider platform for this work, in coordination with international and regional partners.
The EU and the GCC could exchange good practices in disaster prevention and preparedness, in particular through improved cooperation between the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre and the GCC Emergency Management Centre. Where appropriate, the EU will also propose technical exchanges with other Gulf countries, the League of Arab States and the Arab Coordination Mechanism for Disaster Risk Reduction to contribute to regional cross-border capacity building.
Given the increasing role played by nuclear energy in the GCC countries, the EU could envisage enhancing the collaboration on nuclear safety and nuclear emergency preparedness and response, including on public health consequences of intentional or unintentional CBRN threats. In particular, nuclear safety could benefit from dedicated technical support on key areas such as nuclear safety culture or accident management, whereas nuclear emergency preparedness and response could be addressed through strengthening the emergency information exchange between the EU and the GCC, in line with ongoing projects on this matter. Such lines of collaboration should take place between the EU and the GCC Emergency Management Centre, and could also eventually include other Gulf countries.
Further consolidation between regional partners and the EU in relation to CBRN, CBRN medical countermeasures and the governance of CBRN materials could be explored. In addition to its current focus on biological preparedness, chemical safety and security, and emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CBRN Centre should propose regional activities on strategic export controls on dual-use goods.
The EU and Gulf countries have already stepped up their coordination on regional crises in the broader Gulf, Middle East region and the North and Horn of Africa. Peace and stability in this wider region is a strong shared interest, whether in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine or Somalia, Ethiopia or Sudan. The EU also values GCC and its Member States’ important role in international mediation. Recent examples include the role played by Qatar with regard to Afghanistan and Chad, the KSA and UAE in the Horn of Africa, Kuwait on Lebanon and Oman in Yemen. The EU is ready to propose closer cooperation and the sharing of methodologies, experience and best practices on conflict prevention and mediation, at both bilateral and regional level.
Deepening counter-terrorism engagement with the Gulf countries can be envisaged on issues such as countering violent extremism and radicalisation, financial support for extremism, exportation of extremist literature, and terrorist threats from the region and beyond. The EU will explore avenues for stepping up its support for exchanges of best practice to counter extremist narratives and promote the productive use of traditional and social media, including closer collaboration with existing organisations. Stronger cooperation could also include joint activities to increase awareness of legal and institutional frameworks to counter terrorism financing and combat anti-money laundering. The EU will also continue to work with the Gulf countries to advance and promote a global, open, stable and secure cyberspace with a particular focus on cybersecurity and protecting critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.
The EU will also explore possibilities to improve judicial and law enforcement cooperation in order to better combat serious cross-border organised crime, particularly in relation to the fight against terrorism, money laundering investigations, asset recovery and combatting trafficking in human beings. Exchange of best practices and support under the EU Global Facility is being offered to assist international compliance in relation to combating money laundering and tackling financing for terrorism, notably in order to comply with recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Cooperation could be stepped up with Eurojust, potentially through setting up contact points, and with the European Public Prosecutors Office.
Both the EU and the Gulf regions have been affected by hybrid attacks, such as artificially induced migratory flows and terrorism, including terror attacks using drones and missiles. EU and Gulf countries should further cooperate to tackle such challenges effectively. In the perspective of addressing such hybrid threats the EU is also strengthening its strategic communication to detect, analyse and address foreign information manipulation and interference that may fuel regional tensions. The EU will work towards frameworks to support freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism which are at the core of healthy information environments, including by supporting societal resilience in the region and raising awareness of the increasing use of foreign information manipulation and interference as a foreign policy tool. Implementing measures to counter disinformation and misinformation will remain a key aspect of this approach.
- Initiate and further strengthen political and dedicated dialogues and coordination on issues pertaining to regional and global stability and security, including on increasing resilience and response against hybrid threats.
- Propose the appointment of an EU Special Representative on Gulf security.
- Develop a cooperation mechanism for enhanced maritime security, building on Operation ATALANTA, EMASoH and the Coordinated Maritime Presence in the North Western Indian Ocean.
- Strengthen technical support in the area of nuclear safety, and promote collaboration in the area of nuclear emergency preparedness and response between the EU and GCC EMC.
- Step up EU-GCC cooperation on Countering Terrorism (CT) and Countering Violent Extremism (CEV) between the EU and the GCC and its member states.
- Develop mutually beneficial cooperation on disaster preparedness and response between the EU Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) and the GCC Emergency Management Centre.
- Initiate a dialogue on cyber security.