Communique of 27th Meeting of GCC-EU Ministerial Council in Muscat

Muscat: The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union (EU) met in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, on 9-10 October 2023 for the 27th GCC-EU Joint Council’s meeting. The meeting aimed to further consolidate the strategic partnership between the two organisations. A communique was issued following the conclusion of the meeting.

The GCC delegation was headed by Sayyid Badr Hamad Al Busaidi, Foreign Minister of the Sultanate of Oman and Chairman of the GCC Ministerial Council. The EU delegation was headed by Josep Borrell, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission.

The meeting was also attended by Jassem Mohammed Al Budaiwi, GCC Secretary General and senior officials from both sides.

The Joint Council welcomed the significant progress achieved in the implementation of the GCC-EU Strategic Partnership, which was announced at its 26th meeting in Brussels in February 2022. The partnership aims to enhance and upgrade their longstanding engagement established by the Cooperation Agreement of 1988.

The EU and the GCC Ministers stressed the special importance of this partnership in the light of growing serious threats to regional and international peace, security and stability and to challenges to the global economy.

The Joint Council welcomed the adoption in May 2022 of the EU Joint Communication on a Strategic Partnership with the Gulf and the appointment of Luigi Di Maio as EU Special Representative for the Gulf region in June 2023. The EU and the GCC Ministers expressed their support for the successful implementation of his mandate, including the deepening of the GCC-EU Strategic Partnership and enhancing diplomatic efforts to safeguard regional and international security and stability.

The Joint Council reviewed the implementation of the Joint Action Programme (2022-2027), mapping out a new era of closer GCC-EU cooperation in a wide range of areas, including political dialogue, regional security, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, trade and investment, energy, climate change, education, research and innovation, health and development and humanitarian cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.

The Joint Council agreed to hold a regular and structured GCC-EU regional security dialogue at the level of senior officials, and establish joint working groups when needed, within the framework of the security dialogue. The move aims to coordinate efforts on regional and global issues, including nuclear, missile and drone proliferation; maritime security; cybersecurity; counterterrorism; terrorism financing, recruitment and ideology; human trafficking; drug trafficking; irregular migration; organized crime; in addition to energy security, security of global food supplies, disaster preparedness and emergency response.

The EU and the GCC Ministers directed their senior officials to explore the potential for GCC-EU coordination on the EU initiative for a Coordinated Maritime Presence (CMP) in the North West Indian Ocean.

The Joint Council welcomed the EU’s invitation to organize a high-level forum on regional security and cooperation, in Brussels in the near future, together with the GCC Secretariat and GCC Member States, to complement the work undertaken at GCC-EU official meetings.

The Joint Council commended the conclusions of the first GCC-EU Conference on Extremist Ideology and Radicalisation, held at the GCC in Riyadh in June 2023 and encouraged continued cooperation in this area.

The Joint Council stressed the importance of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between nations and cultures and recognised that hate speech, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, related forms of intolerance, gender discrimination and acts of extremism can contribute to driving the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict.

The Joint Council endorsed the recommendations of the 12th GCC-EU Macroeconomic Dialogue, held in November 2022 in Brussels and directed future dialogues to focus on modalities for more efficient integration and sustainable business and investment environments.

The Joint Council welcomed the conclusions of the 5th Trade and Investment Dialogue, held at the GCC in Riyadh in March 2023. It also reaffirmed interest in a privileged EU-GCC trade and investment relationship to further stimulate business cooperation, enhance market access conditions and support investment-inducing policies.

The EU and the GCC Ministers stressed the importance of further strengthening the existing trade and investment dialogue in areas contributing to the goal of economic integration, modernisation, support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource efficiency, digital trade, and the promotion of sustainable and global value chains, including supply chains.

The Joint Council lauded the valuable contributions made by the 6th GCC-EU Business Forum, held in Brussels in November 2022. It encouraged effective participation in the upcoming 7th Business Forum, to be held in Bahrain in November 2023. The EU and the GCC Ministers recognized the importance of diversifying sources of funding and credit and financial services, and building a more hospitable environment for the business sectors in both sides.

The Joint Council called for coordinated global efforts, including through the GCC-EU Strategic Partnership, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The EU and the GCC Ministers noted the EU’s Global Gateway strategy to boost major, high-quality, and sustainable investments in both hard and soft infrastructures worldwide to deliver on the SDGs and the Paris Agreement, including investments in the Middle East and Sustainable Transport Connections between Europe and Central Asia. They agreed to explore potential avenues for cooperation in this regard.

The Joint Council agreed that GCC-EU cooperation on scientific research and innovation presents an important opportunity for bringing innovative solutions, creating new jobs and addressing green and digital transition challenges and can be enhanced through a strengthened participation of the GCC countries to the EU R&I Framework Programme Horizon Europe.

The Joint Council welcomed the discussion of GCC-EU coordination of humanitarian aid, held during this ministerial meeting and recognised the need to coordinate efforts, together with other donors, to address the unprecedented level of humanitarian needs worldwide.

The Joint Council discussed the world’s most severe humanitarian crises, the importance of ensuring humanitarian access and promoting respect for International Humanitarian Law, as well as the humanitarian impacts of climate change.

The Joint Council stressed the importance and urgency of promoting joint action in mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts, protecting the environment and developing renewable energies and energy efficiency.

The EU and the GCC Ministers particularly welcomed climate investments, noting that climate action contributes to economic growth and job creation. They commended the commitments expressed by the GCC and EU countries at COP27 and called for an active participation at COP28, aimed at the implementation of commitments made.

The Joint Council also affirmed the importance of the underlying principles of the climate agreements, including the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respecting capabilities in light of different national circumstances in implementing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

The Joint Council commended Saudi Arabia’s Green Middle East Initiative and its announcement to establish and host a secretariat for this initiative and to allocate $2.5 billion to support its governance and projects.

The Joint Council agreed to further engage on a joint de-carbonisation agenda to decarbonise the energy systems by deepening the technical cooperation to further engage on a joint green transition in their economies; by deepening technical cooperation efforts, including on hydrogen, energy efficiency, integration of renewables and development of electricity interconnections, with the ultimate goal of achieving climate neutrality.

The EU and the GCC Ministers reiterated continued support for upholding the UN Charter and the fundamental principles of international law, and in particular the respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all UN Member States.

The Joint Council expressed deep concern on the war against Ukraine, which continues to cause immense human suffering. The Joint Council reaffirmed itsrespect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, and their commitment to the relevant principles of International Law, including international humanitarian Law, and the UN Charter.

The Joint Council expressed deep concern about the grave developments in Israel and Gaza and condemned all attacks against civilians. It called for the protection of civilians, reminding the parties of their obligations under the universal principles of international humanitarian law. It further called for restraint, the release of hostages and allowing access to food, water and medicines according to International Humanitarian Law, stressing the urgent need for a political solution to the crisis to avoid repeating this vicious cycle of violence. The EU and the GCC Ministers are resolved to deplore violence and urge restraint and calm on all sides and agreed to continue consultations and to remain engaged.

The Joint Council called for a halt to all acts of violence and any unilateral measures and supported the efforts of Saudi Arabia, the European Union and the League of Arab States to revive the Middle East peace process in cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, to help put an end to the violence and start the path toward peace and security. The Joint Council stressed the urgent need to improve the humanitarian situation and reiterated their commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen.

The EU and the GCC Ministers reaffirmed their full support to the UN-led peace process and United Nations Special Envoy Hans Grundberg’s mediation efforts.

The Joint Council emphasized their support for an inclusive, Yemeni-Yemeni political process under UN auspices, to end the conflict, based on the GCC Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference Outcomes, and UNSC Resolution 2216.

The Joint Council reaffirmed commitment to reaching an inclusive political solution to the Syrian crisis in a manner that preserves Syria’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, meets the aspirations of its people, is consistent with international humanitarian law, and in line with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2254 (2015).

The Joint Council noted with grave concern the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa. According to UN figures, 23 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are highly food insecure and face severe hunger and water shortages. There are nearly five million refugees and 13 million internally displaced persons. The Joint Council expressed deep concern with the conflict that erupted in Sudan on 15 April and the humanitarian crisis that ensued.

The Joint Council affirmed the need to preserve Sudan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity and restore its security and stability and the cohesion of state institutions to continue to provide basic government services.

Reiterating the strong mutual interest to make the EU-GCC longstanding partnership more strategic, the EU and the GCC Ministers welcomed the intent to organise a first ever Summit at the earliest opportunity.

The Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the European Union agreed to hold their 28th Joint Council and Ministerial Meeting in 2024 in the EU. – ONA

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