Mar 052014

Sharaka Research Paper nr.8

by Cinzia Bianco

This paper aims at exploring how the European Union (EU) could contribute to tackling the socio-economic challenges facing the countries of the Gulf, thus also capitalising on the opportunity to inject new stimulus into its relations with the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC). In particular, the paper argues in favour of pursuing a strategic dialogue through a new economic framework focused on addressing some of the critical issues standing in the way of development sustainability in the Gulf. A special attention is devoted to specific rising sectors that, as drivers of soft power, could impact the mutual perception across the two regions. Against this backdrop, Oman is presented as a case study as it could be a significantly fertile terrain to apply this framework and, at the same time, the country has shown to be a peculiar actor in foreign policy, one that the EU should better engage.

Feb 052014

Sharaka Research Paper nr.7

by Edoardo Barzaghi

The aim of this paper is to point out the shortcomings that affect the EU-GCC relationships at the cultural level stemming from the insufficient or flawed understanding of the EU as a geopolitical and historical entity. The paper briefly outlines the main cultural biases influencing the European perspective of the Arab countries as well as the Arab perspective of the European countries. This discussion underlines how the EU countries generally do not view the GCC countries as constituting a separate region from other parts of the Arab world with its own distinct socio-economic and cultural dynamics. Likewise, the GCC countries more often than not perceive the EU countries as a very indefinite entity, usually referred to vaguely as “the West”. Then, the paper examines one of the most important magazines in the Gulf, al-’Arabī, as a case study of the different ways in which cultural issues related to Europe are discussed in the region. Some of the Europe-related articles from al-’Arabī which deal with the perception of the other are looked at in order to try to give the widest possible outlook of the main biases that still impede a fruitful cultural dialogue.

Jan 312014

Sharaka Research Papers

Sharaka Research Paper nr.6

by Ahmed Ali M. al Mukhaini

This policy paper seeks to understand the factors that have inhibited significant progress in relations between the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with particular focus on higher education and scientific research (HESR). Based on informal discussions held with opinion leaders and government officials in Oman as well as insights from meetings and discussions held in Brussels in 2011 with representatives of the EU Commission, European Parliament and NGOs, the paper outlines and discusses the factors responsible for the lack of progress in the cooperation. These factors can be classified into four categories: structural/ institutional challenges; political challenges; philosophical challenges; and  logistical challenges. Based on the assumption that progress in economic development and scientific research is highly dependent on progress in higher education, as higher education builds up human capital, the paper argues that cooperation in higher education should be the locomotive leading the way for a greater engagement between the EU and the GCC. Furthermore, as the EU’s own experience suggests, cooperation in higher education is highly conducive to integration, stability and economic growth, all of which are valid concerns for the EU and GCC alike, and constitutes an area in which the two blocs can develop a greater sense of complementarity.