The 35th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit, to be held in the Qatari capital Doha on 9 and 10 December, is expected to focus on issues pertaining to economic growth in the Gulf region, as well as the dwindling price of oil in the global market.
The GCC summit will focus its economic growth agenda on topics such as the unified customs union, the Gulf power grid, and finding means to unite the GCC countries' financial and economic policies.
The GCC, which groups together the Arab Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, is a political, economic, social, and regional cooperation organization, was established on 4 February 1981.
The geographical proximity of the GCC states, and the similarity of their regulations and economic and social conditions, as well as the need to meet the challenges imposed by surrounding circumstances, were among the factors that led to the establishment of the GCC.
The GCC held its first summit meeting on 25 May, 1981 in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and summits have been held every year since then.
Doubts had been cast about whether the upcoming 35th session would be held in the Qatari capital, following months of diplomatic tensions between Qatar and its neighbors, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
In March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain withdrew their ambassadors to Qatar sparking one of the worst diplomatic rows since the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in 1981. According to news agencies in the region, the tense relations were said to have been initiated by Doha’s continued support of movements and groups that adopted orientations and policies which opposed those of the GCC.
The seven-month long schism only ended with an unannounced meeting in Riyadh, in mid-November, between the GCC leaders. His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, had led the efforts aimed at bridging the gap between the estranged brotherly states.
In a joint statement issued at the end of that meeting the leaders reiterated that “our unity is more important than our differences.” The GCC also issued a statement in which it said the meeting “promises the opening of a new page that will present a strong base, especially in light of the sensitive circumstances the region is undergoing.”
Holding the GCC meeting in December as planned will now allow the group to focus on issues other than internal challenges, to move from cooperation to unity. Saudi Arabia, in particular, wants to make a push towards great integration. The dispute between the Gulf Cooperation Council states had also threatened to undermine efforts to further integrate their economies.
Among economic growth strategies to be tackled at the 35th Summit is the GCC water linkage project aimed at securing water resources in the Gulf region known for its predominantly desert environment. The project, to be done in three phases, is estimated to cost around US$10 billion with the initial starting date of 2020.
The GCC states' economic aspiration is backed up by strong numbers within the value of commercial exchange domain, which increased by 14 percent in 2012-13, from $106 billion to $121 billion, according to a GCC report. The increase was attributed to the establishment of the joint GCC market in 2008.
Also improvements in the number of commercial licenses given to GCC citizens as well as the developing banking scene in the region is a strong indication that the Gulf States could work together for the betterment of their economic growth.
However, the prospect of economic growth is threatened by the decline of oil prices in the global market which had a strong effect on the performance of GCC financial markets. OPEC had agreed last November in Vienna to keep the production at 30 million barrels per day despite plummeting oil price.
Nevertheless, the GCC remains committed to its basic objectives of effecting co-ordination, integration, and interconnection among member states in all fields in order to achieve unity among them. Other objectives, including deepening and strengthening relations, links and areas of co-operation now prevailing among their people, remain at the core of GCC policies.
The GCC also aims to formulate similar regulations in various fields, including in economic and financial affairs; commerce, customs and communications; education and culture; social and health affairs; information and tourism, and in legislative and administrative affairs.
Other aspirations of the GCC include stimulating scientific and technological progress in the fields of industry, mining, agriculture, water and animal resources; establishing scientific research and encouraging joint ventures through co-operation with the private sector for the good of their people.
Meanwhile, Kuwaiti Ambassador to Albania Nejib Al-Bader underlined significance of Kuwait’s economic diplomacy noting that it has helped the country cope with major challenges at this level. Ambassador Al-Bader affirmed that the Kuwaiti diplomatic missions abroad are guided according to the national economic diplomatic strategy. The economic diplomacy has helped Kuwait shift from an oil-dependent economy to diversified economy, channeling investments into various domains, said the ambassador. Kuwait has taken major steps forward for sake of transforming itself into an international financing and investment hub, he said, noting as well substantial efforts over the past 53 years for funding development schemes in many nations.
The ambassador noted that after end of the Cold War, the GCC countries, including Kuwait, shifted from political to economic diplomacy as part of the quest to restore the good economic status, witnessed in the 70s and 80s. He pointed out that Kuwait and the other GCC states, which possess more than 40 percent of the global oil reserves, base their ties with the Asian nations on joint interests.
In the same vein, member of the Kuwaiti National Assembly, Faisal Muhammad Al-Kandari, leading the Kuwait delegation to the 7th session of Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA), which was held in eastern Pakistan city of Lahore, said the conferees adopted 19 resolutions after discussions.
The APA, which includes all of the six member GCC bloc as members or observers, also passed measures and methods of materialization of principles of friendship and cooperation in Asia, engaging APA with Asian governments and intergovernmental organizations, integrated energy market in Asia, financial affairs for the countries of APA member parliaments, alleviating poverty in Asia and coping with globalization in Asia. The APA meeting also called for protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers in Asia, and, promoting inter-faith dialogue and harmony among world religions.
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh in August, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Anwar Gargash, highlighted the importance and relevance of the continuity of the GCC bloc. He emphasized that unity and cooperation among the GCC countries are the key to their stability and prosperity.
Saying that the UAE’s approach had led to a strong belief that stability was a key priority, the minister said, “We all have the responsibility to heal and restore confidence and rise above every small matter, both in words and actions, because we are all in the same boat, one we wish to be immune and strong.”
“We must not allow those with an agenda to fish in troubled waters, especially at this time of rebuilding confidence, and we must realize that there are those who do not want us to succeed.” Dr. Gargash added the UAE’s interests lay in the Gulf, far from the region’s conflicts and disagreements. “Our success is a success for all and we must realize that our unity and cooperation are the key to our stability and prosperity. The past months were a harsh test and lesson, so let us join hands and entrench our home … joint efforts reap more achievements than individual action.”