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EU plans a new partnership with the Gulf for 2022

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EU High Representative Josep Borrell said that it was clear from his recent visit to Gulf states (Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) that they would like a greater presence from the European Union in the region. Today (18 December) foreign ministers agreed that the EU should establish a delegation in Qatar.

Borrell also announced that there would be an EU Gulf Cooperation Council in early 2022 year and a Joint Communication on a “Partnership with the Gulf” should be adopted in the first quarter of 2022. 

The gulf states often play a key role in foreign policy issues, most notably there relations with the Taliban. Borrell said at the press conference: “If we want to engage with Afghanistan, we better go to Qatar.”

“Qatar is the country with the highest revenue per head in the world”, Borrell said and the EU could accompany them in building confidence and contributing to the global agenda on a wide range of issues, including climate and digitization. 

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On the region's more troubling human rights record, Borrell said this was an area where we could disagree, but where the EU could build a dialogue, giving the example of Saudi Arabia where a human rights dialogue took place for the first time ever.

Background

The European External Action service report that the political and security situation in the Gulf has shown some signs of improvement over the last twelve months, but tensions remain. At the same time, countries in the region have been raising their political and security profiles in the EU neighbourhood, while the EU has been enhancing its diplomatic presence in the region and its institutional engagement with these countries. 

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The Gulf states are increasingly interested in close co-operation with the EU on global issues and regional security. Ministers are expected to discuss ways to further EU engagement with the region, with a particular focus on what the EU can do to help Gulf countries build confidence regionally, in particular as regards the process launched by the Baghdad Conference on Cooperation and Partnership (28 August 2021).

The EU is also keen to build a closer partnership between the EU and Gulf countries to further the EU's global agenda (green transition/climate change, diversification away from hydrocarbons to fighting desertification and water resource management, connectivity, digital economy, the fight against pandemics or support to multilateralism and effective response to growing humanitarian needs).

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China

Competition: EU and China meet during 22nd Competition Week to discuss competition policy priorities

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Officials and experts from the EU and China will meet online from 29 November to 2 December 2021 to discuss about their co-operation on competition law and enforcement. The discussions will focus on the green transition and how China's Fair Competition Review System and the EU's State Aid framework can contribute to it. Participants will also discuss mechanisms to control potentially anti-competitive acquisitions in the digital sector and the practical challenges of investigating digital markets. In addition, there will be updates on the proposed revisions to China's Anti-Monopoly Law and recent regulatory and competition policy developments in the EU.

The 22nd EU-China Competition Week follows the longstanding tradition of biannual competition dialogue between the EU and the anti-monopoly enforcement agencies in China. It is part of the Competition Co-operation project, a five-year EU funded programme offering technical co-operation to competition authorities in Asia. It also provides a platform for exchanges on competition policy between the European Commission Directorate-General for Competition (DG Competition) and the Chinese State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR). The objective is to exchange experiences and strengthen convergence in competition policy, to the benefit of citizens and businesses in both the EU and in Asia. More information about the European Commission's bilateral dialogue with China in the field of competition policy is available on the Commission's website.

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coronavirus

Commission hosts second matchmaking event to speed up the development and production of COVID-19 medicines

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Today (30 November), the Commission is hosting a pan-European matchmaking event to accelerate and upscale the development and production of COVID-19 medicines in Europe, as part of the actions under the EU Strategy on COVID-19 Therapeutics. Following a first matchmaking event on COVID-19 medicines in July 2021 and a previous matchmaking event on COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021, this event aims at strengthening the participation of EU companies in value chains for COVID-19 therapeutics and speeding up connections among the participants. It also broadens the focus: from therapeutics specifically used to treat COVID-19, to also including those used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, as well the production of disposable materials, such as syringes, and ingredients needed for making such medicines.

The event gathers companies from the European Economic Area as well as other businesses and organisations included in the portfolio of 10 most promising treatments, presented by the Commission in the follow-up to the COVID-19 Therapeutics strategy. In order to facilitate matchmaking events, the Commission issued a comfort letter in March 2021 (based on the Antitrust Temporary Framework adopted by the Commission on 8 April 2020) providing guidance, relevant also for this event, on how the matchmaking and exchanges between participating companies, including direct competitors, can take place in compliance with EU competition rules. The matchmaking event is organised by the Commission's Task Force for industrial scale-up of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, in close co-operation with the European Cluster Collaboration Platform. The event is also hosted in partnership with the Council of European BioRegions (CEBR) and the European Cluster Alliance (ECA), which are supporting the Commission in running an EU survey to assess EU capacities for COVID-19 therapeutics production. More information about the event is available here.

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European Commission

President von der Leyen addresses the special session of the World Health Assembly of the WHO

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On 29 November, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (pictured) addressedthe World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO), which gathers between 29 November and 1 December for its second-ever special session. The President welcomed the Assembly's decision to start negotiations towards an international instrument to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, President von der Leyen commended the leadership of South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa, underlining that South Africa's analytical work and transparency have allowed a swift global response to save lives. She praised South Africa as an example of international cooperation in times of cross-border health threats.

Building on the Global Health Summit of May and on the G20 Summit last month, President von der Leyen reaffirmed the EU's commitment to uphold equity, good governance, multilateral cooperation and solidarity as the only ways out of the current health crisis. The European Union and its Member States will continue working to help achieve the global vaccination target of 70% in 2022 and will support capacity building for sequencing, testing, treatments and vaccination. In this sense, the President confirmed that the EU aims at sharing at least 700 million vaccine doses by mid-2022 with low and middle-income countries. That is on top of the €3 billion in financing that the EU provided to help create the ACT-Accelerator for global vaccination through COVAX and the ongoing efforts to develop vaccine manufacturing in Africa and in South America. The full speech is available here and can be re-watched here.

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