League of Arab States (LAS)
Since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2015 between the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the LAS General Secretariat, the EU and LAS have maintained an advanced relationship through regular joint meetings taking place at different levels in the context of a political and strategic dialogue. Conflicts and tensions in the region have been a clear priority of EU-LAS dialogue in recent years, especially with regard to Libya and Syria, but also Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the Middle East Peace Process and stability and security in the Sahel region. Close cooperation exists as well in areas such as migration, climate security, counter-terrorism and crisis response. As the only pan-Arab organisation, the EU’s cooperation with LAS provides a unique opportunity to develop closer relations between the Arab World and the European Union.
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EU-LAS Cooperation Framework
The 2014 Athens Declaration established the "EU-LAS Strategic Dialogue", fostering a regular dialogue on political and security issues. Later, the Memorandum of Understanding (2015) laid the foundation for mutual practical cooperation, the exchange of diplomats and has as well enabled the establishment of the EU-LAS thematic Working Groups (WG) which foster cooperation on expert level between both sides. These WGs cover topics such as counter-terrorism, crisis management and early warning, non-proliferation and arms control, migration, transnational organised crime and climate security, aiming to inform, both, the Political and Security Committee (PSC) and Senior Officials (SO) about their respective areas of expertise. They are composed of LAS Secretariat and EU staff and usually meet back to back with EU-LAS PSC-SOM meetings. The last EU-LAS PSC/SOM/WG meeting took place in Brussels in January 2020. The next is planned for June 2022 in Cairo.
EU-LAS High Level Meetings
The first EU-LAS Summit was held in 2019 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
EU-LAS Foreign Ministers meetings have taken place in 2012 (Cairo), 2014 (Athens), 2016 (Cairo), and 2019 (Brussels).
HRVP Borrell met last with LAS Secretary General Aboul Gheit in Rome in December 2021.
EU-LAS Cooperation in Practice
EU-LAS cooperation on conflict prevention, early warning and crisis response was implemented in the period 2010 to 2014 inter alia through the project "Strengthening crisis response capacities of the League of Arab States" pursuing the following objectives:
- Establishment of the LAS Crisis Response Centre;
- Sharing of best practices between EU and LAS staff;
- Holding of institutional dialogues and networking with relevant stakeholders
The LAS Secretariat also benefited from an EU-financed Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) project based on Council Decision (CFSP) 1998/1789 aimed at helping combat illicit trade in and proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the member states of the League of Arab States.
Further cooperation is being pursued through the CT MENA project, which aims to support the operationalisation of the EU-MENA/LAS strategic dialogue on counterterrorism and regional cooperation. The main emphasis is support to criminal justice reform, promoting regional and international cooperation between countries to guarantee the security of their citizens in conformity with international law standards, Human Rights and the Rule of Law. A follow on project called CT JUST will continue work in this field with the LAS.
The EU regional project "Training and Information Course on Euro-Arab diplomacy" (El Hiwar) strives to facilitate the flow of information and to promote dialogue and cooperation between officials from both organisations. Under the EU-LAS partnership in the field of culture efforts are as well being made to foster mutual understanding, inter-cultural dialogue and synergies among creative industries between the EU and the LAS by promoting participation of cultural actors from both sides to emphasize their role in building regional bridges through art and cultural expression. The EU-financed project Halaqat, implemented by the Goethe-Institut in collaboration with Bozar, serves as an example to this effort.