Bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the EU are based on their mutual interest for regional stability, security, economic and political cooperation. There have been exchanges and visits of political significance from the leaders of the EU institutions, as well as the EU Member States to the Kingdom. Bahraini officials have themselves visited Brussels and other European capitals.
The EU Delegation has developed a wide network of interlocutors in the Bahraini government and society in order to further promote the EU messages on policies and values to the Kingdom pursuing synergies with local partners, while better understanding the values and culture.
Cooperation Arrangement with Bahrain:
The cooperation between the European External Action Service and Kingdom of Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is based on the Cooperation Arrangement, which was signed in Brussels by H.E. Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HRVP), and H.E. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, on 10th February 2021.
The Cooperation Arrangement provides an institutional framework for political dialogue and cooperation in areas such as:
- Research and innovation
- Clean energy and renewables
The Cooperation Arrangement entails an annual high level political dialogue and a series of thematic discussions at the level of Senior Officials, where possibilities of bilateral cooperation are further explored, including in support of Bahrain’s economic diversification efforts. It also provides a framework for our cooperation on a technical level.
The areas in which concrete projects will be implemented will be discussed in the Senior Official Meetings, in order to monitor progress of current projects, but also to constantly adapt the areas of engagement according to the EU’s and Kingdom’s of Bahrain defined priorities. The Cooperation Arrangement allows the Kingdom of Bahrain and the EU to engage on various levels. In Bahrain, this project aims to contribute to the agenda of economic diversification (Bahrain Economic Vision 2030). Based on their own rich experience, the EU and its Member States have a lot of experience and know-how to share in this field.
Trade and investment relations
The EU is Bahrain’s second trading partner, with 10.5% of Bahrain’s global trade (Saudi Arabia is first with 21.4 %).
Bahrain is the EU’s 71st trading partner in goods, with a total trade of 2.5 bn Euro and with an EU market share of 0.1 %.
Bahrain mainly imports machinery and manufactured goods from the EU while it mainly exports manufactured goods and mineral fuels from the EU.
The EU intends to deepen investment ties and strengthen its cooperation with the Kingdom of Bahrain. Boosting non-oil exports and attracting more FDI requires the development of a thriving private sector.
Enhanced EU-GCC Political Dialogue, Cooperation and Outreach:
On 1 December 2020, the EU launched a new project “Enhanced EU-GCC Political Dialogue, Cooperation and Outreach” aimed at deepening cooperation between the EU, GCC and its Member States, and enhancing knowledge about the EU in the GCC. The overall objective of the project to contribute to a stronger relationship between the European Union and the GCC countries, as well as the GCC itself. For this matter, the EU would like to enhance the political dialogue, cooperation and outreach with the GCC (both regionally as well as with individual countries in the region, including the Kingdom of Bahrain). The European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as the EU Delegations in the region are key stakeholders in this project, together with the host country and GCC institutions and organisations.
The EU-GCC Dialogue on Economic Diversification project
The EU-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Dialogue on Economic Diversification project was launched in 2018 by the European Union through its Partnership Instrument. The purpose of the project is to promote trade, investment and economic affairs related policy analysis, dialogue and co-operation between the EU and GCC at both regional and individual country levels.
The project has been working with both EU and Bahraini stakeholders to develop connections and to build partnerships based on the exchange of EU experience and expertise to assist the Kingdom of Bahrain in its economic diversification strategy contained within Bahrain Economic Vision 2030. A number of project initiatives have been specifically targeted at Bahrain but the country also benefits from broader project activities across the GCC.
Projects in Bahrain focus on SME development and networking; Bahrain’s participation in the Horizon Europe programme; Bahrain-EU trade and investment connections; and Bahrain’s Vision 2030.
The EU-GCC Clean Energy Technology Network
The EU-GCC Clean Energy Technology Network was established in 2010 and funded by the EU, to foster closer cooperation between the EU and GCC countries on clean energy policies and technologies, both at regional and bilateral levels. The Network has proven to be an excellent tool to enrich the EU-Bahrain energy dialogue and cooperation, to engage with Bahrain and EU partners in the discussion on sustainable energy policies and facilitate the sharing of clean energy policies, technologies and best practices. The Network engages with key stakeholders in Bahrain, including ministries and public bodies; academia; and the private sector.
This program is active in the Gulf region, and provides young people and academics the opportunity to study or teach abroad. While the internal integration of European countries is at the heart of our identity, external actions and exchanges with other countries are the EU’s cardiovascular system. Our programs embody our desire to create a dialogue between cultures. Erasmus + draws the enriching experience of otherness. In the Gulf region, the European Union is keen on cooperation to face together with our young generation the challenges of tomorrow through specific programs. The Jean Monnet program, as an example, represents excellence in teaching and research in the field of European affairs. Since its inception, the program has reached more than 500,000 students each year. And we expect to higher this number in the next years to reach more people in the Gulf region.
The Chaillot Prize for human rights activities in the GCC countries
Since 2009, the European Union Delegation to Bahrain has run, on an annual basis, the Chaillot Prize for the Promotion of Human Rights in the GCC Region. The Prize honours local civil society organisations, public or private institutions, as well as individuals for their efforts in promoting general awareness of human rights and the rights of vulnerable groups in the GCC region. Winners of the prize in Bahrain include Be Free Centre and Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and Ombudsman of the Ministry of Interior.
EU-GCC cooperation is based on the 1988 Cooperation Agreement. Since then, annual Joint Cooperation Councils and Ministerial Meetings of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the European Union have been taking place. Political consultations at the highest level take place a regular basis, as well as regular SOMs and Ministerial meetings, while annual regional director meetings are hosted in Europe and in the Gulf. Beyond political coordination, practical cooperation has taken roots in a number of areas between the EU and the GCC over the years, as also manifested in the first Joint Action Programme (JAP), which included fourteen different sectors.
The EU is the 2nd biggest trade partner of the GCC (after China, 15.8%), representing 11.9% of the GCC’s total trade in goods with the world in 2020 and 17.4% of the GCC’s imports came from the EU in 2020. The EU thus ranked as the GCC’s number one import partner. In 2020, the EU was the 4th biggest export partner of the GCC as 6.9% of the GCC’s exports went to the EU. There is an ongoing cooperation between the EU and GCC on trade and investment issues, macro-economic matters, climate change, energy, digitalisation, space and environment as well as research and innovation. A structured informal EU-GCC dialogue on Trade and Investment was launched in May 2017 and have been meeting since on annual basis. Furthermore, the 11th EU-GCC macroeconomic dialogue took place virtually in 2021 and focused on the policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis and its medium-term economic implications.
EU exports to the GCC countries are diverse but focused on industrial products such as power generation plants, railway locomotives and aircrafts as well as electrical machinery and mechanical appliances.
EU-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) trade negotiations
The EU and Gulf Cooperation Council launched negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1990. The negotiations were halted in 2008, when the GCC countries suspended negotiations. The GCC has requested in 2019 extensive information about the modern EU FTA. The EU modern FTA model foresees a progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade in goods, in services and includes investment facilitation, customs facilitation, procurement and energy cooperation, notably.
The EU remains open to dialogue with Saudi authorities and the GCC Secretariat on furthering the trade and investment partnership.
Counter terrorism and security relations with the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Gulf countries are priorities for the European Union. The EU Delegation aims on developing an extensive and confident dialogue on security (including regional security, maritime security) and CT with partner countries of the GCC. It also aims in developing a close cooperation in different fields like counter-terrorist finance and anti-money laundering, combatting extremism and in strengthening EU-GCC cooperation in sectors of great importance for our common security such as Justice, cyber security, police (Europol) and Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Risk Mitigation Centres of Excellence (CRBN CoE).