Europe and the Gulf on course for stronger relations

Patrick Simonnet

On Tuesday, we celebrate Europe Day, a symbolic date that commemorates the founding of the EU. On May 9, 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman made a proposal that laid the foundations for an unprecedented period of peace, unity and prosperity in Europe. The Schuman Declaration proposed combining Europe’s industrial potential in a way that would make war between Europeans in the future unthinkable. This project has grown into the EU, a community of nations based on common values and aspirations.
In today’s world, in order to take care of the prosperity, welfare and security of our citizens, we have to build strong partnerships across the world. We can now celebrate one more successful year in the building of ties between Europe and Saudi Arabia. We have many common interests. We want to enhance mutual trade and investments and increase travel and cultural exchanges between Europe and Saudi Arabia. We are interested in peace and stability in the Gulf, the wider Middle East and throughout the world. We want to preserve our environment and make sure that we run our economies in a sustainable way, minimizing any damage that human activity causes to our planet.
The EU has decided to enhance its partnership with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries to a new level. On May 18 last year we adopted a document on a “Strategic partnership with the Gulf,” which aims to broaden and deepen the relationship between the EU and the Gulf countries. Both sides have a lot to gain from this partnership. The EU is the world’s largest single market, a leader in research and innovation, an important security actor and the leading actor on global challenges such as climate change and digitalization. Saudi Arabia is a rapidly developing dynamic economy and an increasingly important gateway between Europe, Asia and Africa. The Kingdom plays a crucial role in the energy markets and is an important partner in developing mutual strategies to meet climate commitments. Saudi Arabia is conducting active diplomacy to address the political and security concerns in the region and is an influential actor in the multilateral arena. Throughout the last year, we have seen our partnership steadily grow. There is an increasing flow of visitors from Europe to the Kingdom. On Sept. 13 last year, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, paid a visit to the Kingdom, where he was hosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Members of the European Parliament have met their colleagues in the Shoura Council and the European commissioners for the green deal, energy and crisis response have met their counterparts. There has also been a regular political dialogue at the highest level. The EU and Saudi Arabia have conducted their second annual human rights dialogue and foreign ministers and senior diplomats from individual EU member states have visited the Kingdom.
The Europeans follow with great interest and admiration the implementation of Vision 2030. This is a vision of allowing the Kingdom to face the challenges of the future, with a modern and creative economy and a vibrant society. European trade and investment is an important factor contributing to this development. We are continuing our work to make it easier to do business between Europe and Saudi Arabia. We are also working on increasing people-to-people contacts. The EU’s Gulf strategy calls for closer cultural cooperation, mobility for youths and students, and higher education cooperation and exchanges. We are actively working to support these endeavors.
One of our priorities is cooperation in higher education and we would like to maximize the benefits of the Erasmus Plus exchange programs for Saudi and European students and researchers. Saudi Arabia is rapidly creating new opportunities for travel, opening up the historical and cultural treasures of the country and launching appealing new entertainment projects. More and more European tourists are visiting the Kingdom to personally experience the nature, culture and history of the country. The ongoing Russian aggression in Ukraine is a reminder that we need to constantly work together to defend the basic principles of international law and the UN Charter. We are determined not to let the unprovoked and unjust aggression succeed. We are committed to supporting Ukraine and its people, who are defending their country with the greatest courage and determination. We have placed severe sanctions on the aggressor, mobilized financial and material resources in support of Ukraine, got rid of almost all our dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and acted to limit the negative effects of the war on global food prices and food availability. We will continue these efforts until the restoration of full Ukrainian sovereignty and a return to international law. The war of aggression against Ukraine is, unfortunately, far from the only crisis affecting the world. The EU is fully engaged in working with its partners on a range of common security issues. In the Gulf, we are encouraged by the processes that can lead to the alleviation of the security concerns of our partners, including Saudi Arabia. The EU is ready to support region-led efforts to build confidence, facilitate dialogue and sustain arrangements that will provide greater security in the Gulf. The EU and the Gulf have a solid framework for cooperation and we are continuing to make it even stronger. We have spent another fruitful year and are looking forward to the road ahead of us.
Arab News