BRUSSELS: The European Union and the GCC countries reaffirmed their commitment to expanding cooperation during the sixth Joint Business Forum on Thursday in Brussels.

The forum organized four panel discussions to discuss climate change, energy security, the environment, and digital transformation in the European Union and the GCC countries.

“This meeting is welcome and timely, given the very challenging global developments we have faced and continue to face in 2022,” European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in his opening address on Thursday.

Dombrovskis continued: “In this challenging environment, the European Union is fully committed to strengthening economic relations between our two regional blocs. By developing our areas of common interest, by working in a more collaborative manner, we can achieve real benefits.

“The EU is guided in this important work by our communication on ‘Strategic Partnership with the Gulf’, which was published in May this year. The strategic objective of this roadmap is clear: we want to broaden and deepen our cooperation with the GCC and the Gulf Member States.

“We view the Gulf as a dynamic neighborhood, and an important gateway between Europe, Asia and Africa.

The former Latvian prime minister noted that the European Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries account for 20 percent of the global economy, 17.5 percent of global trade, and more than half of global foreign direct investment.

He stressed that the forum’s discussions should focus on areas of common interest, such as improving the trade and investment climate, regulatory and customs cooperation, and sustainable development goals.

Dombrovskis also welcomed the economic diversification strategies of the Gulf countries, praising developments in the fields of artificial intelligence, biotechnology and genetic engineering to enhance local production.

In February, the GCC and EU foreign ministers announced a new strategic partnership and adopted a Joint Action Program (JAP) to solidify this partnership over the next five years.

Dr. Abdulaziz Abu Hamad Al-Awesheq, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Negotiations in the Gulf Cooperation Council states, told the forum that the timing is appropriate to take advantage of the momentum.

“There is no denying that we are living in the shadow of the war in Ukraine, which has led to energy shortages, food insecurity and an economic slowdown that could lead to a global recession, but this is also the time to act, to deal with these repercussions.”

Al-Awaishek proposed five priority areas for EU-GCC business cooperation: energy, food security, diversification, projects that stimulate job creation, and training and education for new skills.

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