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The Arabs and Europe… a strategic partnership and mutual interests

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The war is going on in Ukraine and reverberating around the world, especially in the Middle East, whose countries face varying challenges and opportunities resulting from the consequences and results of the current war, and its repercussions on various sectors. The current crisis alerted to a loophole in the European policies followed in the context of dependence on Russian gas, and pushed in parallel to new facts that lead to opening new horizons for relations with the countries of the region.

The new European vision in opening horizons with the countries of the Arab region comes based on different political and economic approaches, in the context of a series of changes taking place in international relations since the earthquake of the twenty-fourth of last February, represented by the Russian military operation in Ukraine.

The past few weeks in particular have been replete with details emphasizing the repositioning of the Middle East in a new way other than the current strategic directions of Western foreign policies. US President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia and the Jeddah summit expressed these trends, and the position of the Middle East countries at the heart of US and Western foreign policy as a major and highly influential player in the international system in light of the current state of political fluidity.

This coincided with various contacts, visits and meetings, which bore in their connotations the harbinger of a new phase of Arab-European relations by benefiting from the lessons of the Ukraine war. The recent visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the State, may God protect him, to France, the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Greece and France, and the European tour conducted by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, which included Germany, Serbia and France, all carried indications. It is in this context, especially in terms of the timing of those visits.

A central Arabic role

The Italian political analyst, Massimiliano Boccolini, considers the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the State, may God protect him, to France and the European tour of the Saudi crown prince and the Egyptian president “evidence of the new central role of the Gulf states and the Middle East in global politics.” Especially in terms of the timing of these important visits at a time when Europe is facing crucial challenges.

In exclusive statements to Al-Bayan, the European analyst refers to US President Joe Biden’s recognition of this (Arab) role during his visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, pointing to many factors that confirm the strategy of Arab-European relations, by applying to his country, which, for example, is in need now. To Egyptian gas and to implement projects owned by Eni in Egypt, just as France needs oil from the Gulf.

“Europe also recognizes the stability of these countries and their wise leaders,” says Pocolini. I am sure that in the future there will be broad prospects for cooperation between European countries and the UAE in particular.” He points out that the UAE and Saudi Arabia are historical partners of Europe.

The Italian analyst does not believe that there is any country that could threaten the relations between Europe and the Arab countries.

Arab-European relations are based on common interests. At a time when many countries did not express supportive positions for any of the parties to the current conflict, adhering to their balanced interests with East and West within the reactions and comments on the Russian operation in Ukraine.

gradual changes

According to a European diplomat who previously worked in the Middle East as an ambassador for his country in a number of countries, at the present time (in the short term) there may be some slight changes that occur in Western foreign policies regarding the issues and files of the Middle East region, in terms of raising the level of relations with The countries of the region and increased coordination on the basic files, especially the energy files.

But at the same time, he says, the extent to which relations will develop depends in part on “the extent of awareness of the negative consequences of the ongoing war in Ukraine, including the partially harmful effects of sanctions imposed on Russia as well.”

The European diplomat, who declined to be named, believes that “deep changes in the future of relations (in the long term) usually take time to be implemented and are widely politically acceptable to all parties”, as a direct result of the current developments.

The desire of the European Union in general to increase its presence in the region, especially in the Gulf region, emerges in light of the inevitable changes in the energy strategy after the imbalance revealed by the Russian-Ukrainian war. In addition to the security files, the migration and asylum file, bilateral relations, and other files of common interest between the countries of the region and the European Union.

Economic consequences

From London, the CEO of the Corum Center for Strategic Studies, Tariq Al-Rifai, speaks in exclusive statements to “Al-Bayan” about energy as the most basic determinants on which the future of Arab-European relations is determined, especially since “the Russian operation in Ukraine has highlighted the great imbalance that suffers from it.” The European policy in the context of dependence on Russia supports the search for alternative sources, including the countries of the Middle East.

And he continues: “We saw at the beginning of this year – before the Russian operation – the closure of all nuclear power reactors in Germany and the tendency to rely more on gas and even oil from Russia. The euro countries depend heavily on Moscow to secure their energy needs, in particular each of the Germany and Italy .. What happened recently led to a rise in energy prices for the European Union and the problems that we see today because of that dependence.”

He points out that this moment was revealing and decisive for the European Union, which realized the inevitability of searching for solutions to this crisis and diversifying energy sources in the European continent, and this has a direct impact on the Arab countries, in particular the oil-producing countries, led by the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which draws A special horizon for European relations with the countries of the Middle East.

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