x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

GCC can learn much from the EU experience, says panel

Angelika Niebler, a member of the European parliament from Germany, stresses the importance of learning from Europe's challenges.

ABU DHABI // Despite some fundamental differences between the Gulf and Europe, the GCC can still learn a lot from the European Union, panellists agreed yesterday.

European parliamentary representatives, political experts and academics at the Paris-Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi discussed how an Arab Gulf union could take advantage of the European experience.

"Integration is complicated and sometimes arduous, but it is well worth it," said Poul Hoiness, the Danish Ambassador to the UAE, in his opening speech at the panel.

Mr Hoiness said the GCC should not only should learn from Europe's triumphs and its mistakes.

"The GCC has an extensive pattern of regional context, it has very common cultural features, it has a common religion and a common perception of challenges, and most importantly a common language," he said.

Angelika Niebler, a member of the European parliament from Germany, stressed the importance of learning from Europe's challenges.

"If a child learns to walk it has to fall," said Dr Niebler, the leader of the parliamentary delegation. "This is what we went through in the EU and it has made us stronger."

She said the role of parliament was important for the success of any union.

"In Europe we are the link between the people and the union," Dr Niebler said.

Dr Abdul Khaliq Abdullah, a political science professor at the UAE University, said: "Europe, regardless of the difficult time it is going through and the crisis, has always been influential to us and the world.

"Europe is at a crossroads with the euro-zone crisis and in a time of self-doubt, however at this time the GCC is becoming a lot more confident.

"The GCC has been working together now 30 years and it has matured. Three days ago a ministerial meeting in Riyadh hammered out the details of the proposed plan for a union."

Dr Abdullah stated that other than economic, political and cultural ties, security was also paramount to the GCC.

"We see that the Arabian Gulf states have become the centre of gravity in the region and our security policies go parallel with our economic integration," he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae