In February, we reached a turning point in cooperation between the EU and our Arab neighbors with the first ever EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, in which King Salman played a central role. Consensus was reached on important regional issues, such as the Middle East peace process, but also on building further links between our peoples.
The EU considers the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be an important strategic partner and our ambition is to have comprehensive and multidimensional cooperation covering political dialogue, economy and trade, sectorial and regional issues, and counterterrorism and human rights. Nevertheless, relations do not revolve only around “dialogue” — we intend to widen the scope of our cooperation and build on concrete programs and a common agenda.
EU cooperation will focus on Vision 2030. Energy, tourism, agriculture, transport, the space industry and others are all key areas in which we can broaden our engagement and offer the unique assets and scale of the European Single Market and provide European expertise and know-how for this important transformational agenda.
As we look forward to the G-20 summit being held in Saudi Arabia next year, the EU, in close cooperation with its member states, has unique potential and added value to support Saudi efforts in issues such as development cooperation, trade, and climate change action.
It is not exclusively government-to-government engagement; this is matched by people-to-people exchanges, business-to-business dialogue, educational and parliamentary exchanges, and cultural diplomacy, such as the recent “Europe Month.”
While we are expanding bilateral engagement, EU cooperation with the Kingdom also remains anchored around the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with an especially close partnership on the economic agenda and how we can mutually address our employment, trade and fiscal challenges.
The EU is increasing its footprint in the Gulf with the upcoming opening of an EU delegation to Kuwait, which will enable us to further deepen our engagement with both Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries.
We are two weeks from important European elections on May 23-26, which will chart a future course for the European people and institutions, and their relations with the Kingdom will be part of this new chapter.