The chapter offers an overview of the practical pursuit of EU–GCC relations in a longitudinal perspective and examines the implementation of the cooperation agreement. It argues that the simultaneous interplay of three major factors precluded the EU from advancing relations to a level that reflects the geo-strategic importance of the Gulf region and from concluding the envisaged FTA. Firstly, the EU and the GCC are characterised by different degrees of regional integration. Unlike the EU, the GCC is a regional grouping that has not supranationalised trade. Secondly, while the EU in its relations with the GCC has tried to pursue an approach that combines the promotion of democratic norms and values with pragmatic, free market-oriented principles, GCC regimes have regarded the cooperation agreement as a springboard for an upgrade of relations, supposedly deepening inter-regional economic and political ties, while leaving domestic rule-related issues untouched. Thirdly, the relationship is marked by a realpolitik-inspired influence of individual Member States – KSA on one hand and mainly the United Kingdom (UK) and France on the other – and a tendency on their part to pursue bilateral agendas to the detriment of collective decision making and action. The chapter will address these factors across policy fields, such as trade and economic cooperation, human rights and democracy promotion, and security.
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