Relations between the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were formalized through the 1988 Cooperation Agreement. Since that period and especially since the decision by the GCC to implement a customs union, relations between the two sides have grown institutionally and become multi-faceted. In addition to broader and deeper official contacts, there is now also a series of project and exchange networks in place which have allowed for better people-to-people interaction. The quantitative improvement has, however, not translated into a qualitative one as well. Free trade area negotiations have never been concluded and a recent Joint Action Programme was not renewed at the 2013 ministerial meeting. What is therefore clear is that common interests are insufficient as drivers of the relationship, hampered by institutional incongruities, normative differences and a preference for bilateralism over multilateralism. Taken together, this raises questions about the degree to which both the EU and the GCC will remain committed to a more comprehensive relationship, especially at the strategic and political level.
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