On 18 December 2019, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, had a telephone conversation with the President of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. This verbal exchange between the two is particularly significant for two reasons. First, this is the highest level contact with an Arab Gulf leader that Von der Leyen had since assuming the Presidency of the Commission in December 2019. Second, it comes shortly after Saudi Arabia’s officially took the rotating presidency of the G20. The G20 emerged from the G7 and G8 following the global financial crisis and held its inaugural summit in Washington DC in 2008.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are increasingly keen to deepen their partnership with the European Union (EU) and a new, more engaging EU-Commission represents an opportunity to that end. Notably, King Salman remarked that Saudi Arabia looks forward to strengthening the partnership with Brussels to ‘support international efforts to achieve security and stability in the world.’ In the same conversation, Von der Leyen expressed the EU’s ‘keenness to play a constructive role during the upcoming G20 summit’ in Riyadh. The summit will gather finance ministers, central bank governors and other policymakers to discuss global economic issues such as human empowerment, the environment and technological advancement. Climate change is also expected to be a main factor of discussion. The Vision 2030 economic diversification programmes that are underway throughout the Arab Gulf and aim to reduce dependency on the oil sector can offer potential points of convergence with the Green New Deal Strategy promoted by the new EU-Commission.
EU-Saudi Arabia cooperation is also developing on the human rights front. The meeting in Brussels between the president of Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights commission, Awwad Al-Awwad, and the vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula (DARP), Mark Tarabella, highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts to support human rights through the recently promoted reforms and 60 new directives related to human rights related matters—including the rights of women.
The Euro-Gulf Information Centre (EGIC) will continue to monitor the progress of the relationship between the new EU-Commission and the countries of the Arab Gulf. In doing so EGIC will continue and strengthen its activities to facilitate further contacts, create bridges and promote further engagements in fields that are of mutual interest or concern for the people of Europe and the Arab Gulf.
19 December 2019