GCC needs restructuring, union not far-fetched idea: analysts


The outcome of a Gulf summit held in Bahrain this week did not meet the bloc’s expectations, a Bahraini member of parliament told Al Arabiya on Tuesday on the sidelines of the two-day meet in Manama.

“Decisions announced at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit did not meet all the needs of the Gulf people and are not in line with our ambitions,” Abdul Hakim al-Shamari he told Al Arabiya, adding this may have been a result of recent tumultuous events in the region.

Shamari sided with a statement from Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel Aziz, in which he said achievements of the summit were quite “frustrating.”

“I believe that this is partly because of our preoccupation with security and defense issues, which delayed our other projects,” Shamari said.

The MP said priority should now be given to establishing universities and attracting foreign investment as well as approaching Gulf professionals who immigrated to western countries, in the chance they could help with the advancement of their homelands.

“It is also important that recommendations issued by the GCC are translated into real action,” added Shamari.

The annual summit of GCC concluded in the Bahraini capital Manama on Monday with a call for closer economic integration and unity in the face of rising security challenges in the region.

The Secretary General of the Gulf bloc announced that Gulf ministers agreed on the establishment of a unified military command and confirmed a move towards a Gulf Union.

The final statement from the summit also demanded Iran end what they called interference in Gulf Arab affairs, reiterating the six U.S. allies' long-held mistrust of their regional rival.

Iran on Wednesday rejected as “baseless” allegations by Gulf Arab states that Tehran is interfering in their internal affairs, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“Shifting the regional states’ responsibility in regards to their domestic problems is to escape realities on the ground,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying.

His comments came a day after the six GCC states -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates-- in a joint statement, said they “reject and denounce” Iran's “continued interference” in their internal affairs.

The GCC statement added that Tehran must “immediately and completely stop these actions and policies that increase regional tension and threaten security and stability.”

Meanwhile, the GCC communiqué also called on the international community to bring a swift end to massacres and violations of international law in Syria.

On Monday, the first day of the summit, Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz expressed the Saudi kingdom’s hope for the declaration of a Gulf Union.

“We aspire to a strong union with integrated economies, a joint foreign policy and a common defense system,” Prince Salman said.

A Gulf union would supersede the existing GCC and bring member states even closer.

Shamari stressed the necessity of changing the GCC system, particularly one regulation which states that every decision should be taken unanimously by all member states.

The MP said this is almost impossible.

“Much like how Bahrain modified parts of its constitution to be in line with international human rights treaties, it is important that the GCC reconsiders the process of implementing decisions. We cannot stay the same for the next few decades.”

According to Shamari, the new military agreement constitutes a development of a Peninsula Shield Force, which in itself paves way for the union between Gulf nations.

“The expansion of military cooperation is a prelude for having one Gulf army that protects the territories and wealth of the entire region,” he said.

Saudi journalist Jibril Abu Raya said the residents of Gulf countries are always impatient to see change and that is why they get disappointed when it doesn’t happen the way they want it.

“People are always in a hurry and expect a lot from GCC summits, so decisions are always not up to their expectations,” he told Al Arabiya.

Abu Raya noted that in a council made up of six countries it becomes difficult to make quick decisions.

“Each member state studies the available options while taking into consideration the points of view of other countries in the council and so on.”

Abu Raya added that several obstacles stand in the way of implementing decisions taken by the council.

“It is necessary to modify the rules set by the general secretariat of the council or its different committees and which contribute to delaying the implementation of decisions, sometimes for whole years. The council needs to be restructured so we can reduce the bureaucracy.”

According to Abu Raya, the GCC is committed to several projects in 2013, such as the construction of a railway line that connects member states.

“Will this be implemented on time? Till now, we find several economic decisions that were made four years ago and till not implemented,” the journalist said.

One of those much-awaited decisions, he noted, is turning the council into a union.

“This is not far-fetched, but needs a lot of patience and daring decisions to be made, especially in light of economic conditions across the globe.”

Abu Raya cited the example of the European Union which managed to gather 25 countries under one banner.

“Those countries had different political and economic backgrounds as well as different resources, yet they managed to unite as one entity with the main goal being the welfare of European citizen. Gulf countries can do the same.

“We just need patience and optimism,” said Abu Raya.