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Abstract Details

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Europe's Required Role towards the Arabian Gulf Security
Paper Proposal Text :
Europe's Required Role towards the Arabian Gulf Security
Dr. Ashraf Mohammed Kishk
Senior Researcher at Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies
february 2014

About the topic
Recognizing that there are strategic shifts in U.S. policy in the Middle East in general, and the Gulf region in particular, one of the options available to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) , is to activate other world coalitions. That is due to two reasons; first, it is difficult to the GCC countries to achieve self-security, with their present various perceptions of regional threats and the mechanisms to face them, not to mention the increasing geopolitical gap between GCCs and other regional parties, second, the idea of establishing regional alliances proved to be ineffective for the GCCs, neither strategic dialogue with Turkey nor the proposal of adding Morocco and Jordan to the GCC . Hence, the option of establishing international alliances will remain the only option available for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCCs) to save their security. However, the main question that concerns the GCCs is, would the new international allies provide them with their security and defense needs? In other words, do these allies have the ability to apply the concept of "deterrence" and "resolving" the crises that GCCs might face? What are the restrictions they would face? To that extent, one of the available alternatives for the GCCs is to activate the role of the European Union concerning the issue of the Arabian Gulf security. This can be the most suitable option for the Gulf countries given three facts: First, the European Union is the only international assembly that has a collective framework with the GCCs, through The Cooperation Agreement concluded in 1988, in contrast to the bilateral nature of other frameworks such as, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, launched in 2004. Second, the GCCs have already cooperation relations with the European Union in a wide range of areas, the political, economic and military. That is, the partnership between the EU and the GCCs is based on mutual strategic needs. Third, the GCCs have a positive mental picture of European policies, on contrary to that of the United States.
Given the previously illustrated facts, this paper aimed at answering three questions:
1. What are the strategic advantages of resorting to the EU, rather than the USA?
2. What is the EU's potential role towards the security of the Arabian Gulf? In other words, what is the added value the EU could provide in this regard?
3. What are the obstacles facing the EU concerning the Gulf security, and what is the role the EU and the GCC should play to overcome them?
In answering these questions, the paper focuses on three aspects:
First: the strategic advantages of the European Union as compared to the United States:
There are two advantages inherent in engagement with the EU, the collective nature of cooperation between the EU and the GCC, as is embodied in The Cooperation Agreement and the Joint Action Program (2010 - 2013), and the significant defense and economic relations between the EU and the GCC. The GCCs import more than 80% of its food needs from the EU, while the EU is the first trade partner of the GCCs, trade exchange between the two parties is 145 billion Euros a year.
The second aspect: the EU's potential role towards the security of the Arabian Gulf
In spite of GCCs' strategic importance for the EU, the later has not established a suitable defensive role to enhance its interests with the former, but indirectly through Istanbul Initiative launched by NATO in 2004, or bilaterally through the defense pacts signed between the GCCs and some European countries after 1990. This kind of engagement does not manifest a real EU regional influence that can be translated into regular defense cooperation patterns. Hence, the EU's necessary role towards the Arabian Gulf security should include several steps: first, to increase the combat effectiveness of the GCCs forces, whether through improving the quality of weapons or conducting regular joint maneuvers, second: there must be a permanent structure or mechanism to discuss common threats, including terrorism, piracy, and nuclear non-proliferation, third, to develop plans for cooperation in the environment , scientific research and technology areas, fourth, the European Union might patronize regional dialogue between the eight states bordering the Gulf, in order to establish a strong foundation for regional security structure .
The third aspect: impediments facing the EU potential efforts to proceed security in the Arabian Gulf and how EU and GCCs can overcome them:
With the importance of activating the European role towards the security of the Arabian Gulf, there are several obstacles facing this role, some of them have to do with the EU and its collective and individual policies, as well as the current economic crisis and the restrictions it poses on the EU's role. In addition to that, the United States and the international powers, which all have core interests in the region, will seek to offer alternatives to what the EU could provide in the region. Other obstacles are associated with the GCCs themselves, as for their multiple security commitments, either within the GCC framework or with the United States and NATO, and whether these commitments are consistent or inconsistent with the EU's potential cooperation efforts. The variation in cooperation that each of the GCCs offer, should, as well, be taken into account. Therefore there is a joint responsibility that both sides, The EU and GCCs, have to bear so as to overcome potential obstacles.