The Gulf Union Does Not Exist – Apparently
What’s the story: The Gulf Union project does not exist.
Eh? Apparently it’s all a figment of the fertile imagination of journalists.
Bloody journalists. Always up to no good. But what about those meetings GCC leaders keep having about it? Surely that must mean there’s some sort of project? Not according to Yousuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, the Omani Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, who said categorically “there is no Gulf union... The commission to study the project no longer exists and the union exists now only among journalists.” That’s according to an Omani Arabic daily (comprised of journalists and therefore cannot necessarily be trusted. It’s all a bit circular).
Ok, bit weird that. So haven’t we just had a meeting that focused on a common defense? We have indeed. Held last month, the meeting was actually supposed to be bigger than defense, but in the end that was the only thing that had anything close to buy in (and then not universally). Led by Saudi, and heavily supported by Bahrain, it was billed as the meeting to take the union to the next level. As is pretty much usual, it ended with the promise of some sort of decision at the next meeting in December.
Ok, so going back to there is no union…? We assume this is all about the context. In European terms, Oman is the Euro skeptic of the group. It ran for cover at the earlier opportunity when there was talk of a single currency, and has always been the most questioning of the GCC’s members. This is perhaps unsurprising – as an economy it’s very different, with considerably less reliance on hydrocarbons. The foreign minister could have been talking about Oman within the union, which would have made a lot more sense.
Other options? Alternatively, it could just be Oman’s position on the whole thing. In the two decades plus the union has been discussed, it has barely moved forward an inch. Perhaps he was saying it as he sees it – very unlike a politician.
In the last few years, debate over the union has shifted from it being a political union, an economic union, a union of defense, an attempt at stronger cultural and social links… Until there is an agreement about what the six are pushing for, it’s very unlikely the initiative will get traction. As the Editor at Large of Gulf News said here, GCC leaders should focus on practicalities to make the GCC work better, not the imposition of an overarching political structure. A Gulf union will then come organically, but over a much longer time…