GCC-EU Meeting: Between Convergence of Views and Seeking Military De-escalation



The European Union (EU) – Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) High Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation took place on April 22, 2024 at the European Convention Center in Luxembourg. The forum gathered EU foreign ministers and their counterparts from the GCC member states, and the EU special representative for the Gulf region. Thirty-three member states from the EU and GCC participated in the forum. Most states were represented by their foreign ministers. This meeting took place two years after the EU and the GCC announced their strategic partnership. It was indeed after a meeting in Brussels in February 2022, that GCC and EU ministers announced a strategic upgrading of their relationship. They decided to implement a five-year program covering 2023 to 2027, focusing on political and security dialogue.

The forum was chaired by EU High Representative Josep Borrell, with the prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of Qatar as rotating presidency of the GCC and the secretary general of the GCC. Building upon the EU joint communication on a Strategic Partnership with the Gulf and the related Council of the EU conclusions of 20 June 2022, the High Level Forum on Regional Security and Cooperation was an opportunity to enhance political dialogue between the EU and GCC member states, and to further strengthen coordination on issues related to regional and global stability and security.

In his introductory remarks, Borrell focused on the risk of Iran-Israel military escalation, and said that the priority should be to call on all parties to show restraint. He also explained that the meeting was a timely occasion for EU member states and GCC states to work collectively to calm the situation. Finally, he underlined that stability, peace and multilateralism are challenged, at the same time, both in the European continent and the Gulf region. The purpose of this meeting was to enhance cooperation between the EU and the GCC in domains such as maritime security, cyber security, counter-proliferation and disaster preparedness. The role of Luigi Di Maio, the EU special representative for the Gulf region, was decisive in ensuring the presence of the European side at the Luxembourg meeting.

At the time of the meeting, the situation in Gaza, the West Bank, the Red Sea, Syria, Sudan and Ukraine showed no signs of de-escalation or calm and the need to counter the risk of  regional conflicts expanding in scope in Europe and the Middle East was the priority of all participants at this high-level dialogue. This forum will also include a new exchange program focusing on young diplomats from the GCC and Europe. Next year, the European Diplomatic Academy will welcome GCC diplomats. The purpose of this new program is to improve the mutual understanding between EU states and their GCC counterparts. The launch of a new Young Leaders in Regional Diplomacy Program will take place in May 2024. According to Borrell, “For the first time, young diplomats from the GCC and the GCC member states will participate in a joint training with diplomats from the European Union and the European Union member states who are currently taking place at our recently created European Diplomatic Academy, close to Brussels, in the historic city of Bruges.” 

Most of the speakers outlined the need to support a peaceful resolution of regional conflicts, to end the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, and the risk of military escalation in the region. Both representatives of the EU and GCC expressed the need to focus on starting a de-escalation process between Iran and Israel and to achieve a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This meeting in Luxembourg was organized after the previous meeting that was held in Muscat after the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack on Israel. In Muscat, both parties decided to hold regular security meetings and to create EU-GCC working groups on regional and global issues to enhance the stability of Europe and the Middle East as well as to share perceptions to improve mutual understandings between GCC and EU member states.

As was the case in Muscat, both sides agreed that diplomatic engagement by Saudi Arabia and other GCC states with Iran is key to pursuing regional de-escalation. Furthermore, in Muscat, “The EU and the GCC Ministers reaffirmed their support for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and their lasting commitment to ensure that the Gulf region remains permanently free of nuclear weapons. They reaffirm the importance of the UNSC Resolution 2231. They called on Iran to cease the proliferation of ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles and other weapons that pose a grave security threat to the region and beyond.” The GCC and the EU reiterated their commitment to working together to address threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity and other destabilizing activities.” This mutual understanding achieved in Muscat was strengthened after the meeting in Luxembourg. The main positive outcome of this high level meeting will be the new exchange program between EU and GCC states that will allow this political forum to include the new generation of leaders from both regions.

Overall, the high level forum was a success of dialogue and cooperation at a time of increasing polarization on the international scene. The consensus achieved in Luxembourg will be a positive factor to resolve regional crises in both the Middle East region and on the European continent.

Editorial Team