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EU Parliament debates relations with GCC.

| BRUSSELS, Sept 18 (KUNA) -- The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Ambassador to the EU, Amal Al-Hamad, lamented a European Parliament resolution on Bahrain last Thursday which she described as both "unbalanced" and "one-sided".

The GCC countries "were surprised to see another resolution which was unbalanced and one-sided," she said referring to the six-nation bloc which includes, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

"We should let reforms take due course in Bahrain and keep in mind that sometimes too much unbalanced resolutions or statements might backfire in our region and affect our relations," she warned.

The statements came following a lively and intense debate between the European Parliament's Delegation for relations with the Arab Peninsula with Al-Hamad and Ambassador of Kuwait to Belgium, the EU, and Luxembourg, Nabeela Al-Mulla Tuesday evening.

During the debate, Al-Mulla expressed "shock" that the question of Bahrain was discussed again as an emergency topic by the European Parliament last week.

Meanwhile, the head of the EU delegation, Angelika Niebler, opened the debate welcoming the speakers who included John O'Rourke, head of the section for Arab Peninsula, Iran, and Iraq in the EU foreign service, known as the European External Action Service.

Al-Hamad presented the outcome of the EU-GCC ministerial meeting held in Bahrain in June saying it was "fruitful and successful." She noted that the Bahrain meeting held an "in- depth open and transparent dialogue" on a number of issues including EU-GCC ties and developments in Syria, Iran, Palestine, Yemen.

Al-Hamad welcomed the new EU delegation in Abu Dhabi and noted that the European Parliament has recommended the opening of more EU delegations in other Gulf countries.

Another topic the GCC Ambassador raised during the session was the decision by the EU to exclude the GCC from the preferential trade scheme known as the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from January 2014.

"This exclusion could lead to a reduction of GCC exports, divergent to other markets and increase in EU-GCC trade imbalance. We call on the European Parliament to find an appropriate alternative to this," she said.

On an EU-GCC Free Trade Agreement, she said "we are interested as much as you are in concluding the agreement that could advance economic cooperation and boost trade and investments.

"However, conditions imposed by the EU on export duties have prevented the conclusion of the FTA. Our view is that the issue of export duties has been sufficiently dealt with within the WTO without the need to add additional restrictions," she noted.

Al-Hamad said that the issue of human rights is always raised in the European Parliament and underlined that GCC countries are not at all hesitant to talk and discuss human rights.

"You are not looking at the positive side of reforms that are taking place in our region. You look only at the negative side and that's why we get frustrated," she said.

Al-Hamad underlined that the GCC is keen on strengthening relations with the EU and pointed out to various upcoming EU-GCC activities such as the energy experts meeting in December and a workshop on money laundering and terrorism financing in February 2014.

For her part, Nabeela Al-Mulla also criticised the EU's human rights policy saying "there is a reluctance from the EU side to refer to the diversity of cultures." She noted that a recent document published by the EU on freedom of religions and faith underlined that "the EU has no religion or belief." "Then we see that EU institutions and the parliament come and decide on the beliefs of other states that have religion in their constitution," she said, and noted that these human rights guidelines are only European and not international.

"Don't tell us to apply your European guidelines on Muslim countries like Kuwait or Bahrain. You have to respect the idea of diversity of cultures on the level of equity not that of a judge and a client," she stated.

On the GSP issue, Al-Mulla said the GCC side expressed surprise at the speed with which the EU reinstated Myanmar, while the Gulf countries will be excluded from it next January.

"Has Myanmar such a fantastic record of human rights that it will be reinstated to the GSP", she asked.

She however praised the European Parliament for its recent recommendation that UAE citizens should have visa-free travel to the EU and called on the Parliament to lend its support to other Gulf countries in the future on the visa issue.

For his part, John O'Rourke said the EU also considers the outcome of the last EU-GCC ministerial meeting "reflected well the high level of importance which both sides attach to this relationship." "The political importance attached to this relationship is not in doubt and indeed the dialogue was quite transparent and useful, notably on political issues which are of common interest," he noted.

"It is true that some issues are more difficult to address; one of which is human rights. We don't necessarily need to agree. The important thing is to exchange views on these things in a constructive way," stated the EU diplomat.

On Bahrain, he noted that the emergency debate in the European Parliament last week "also caught us by surprise." British MEP Ashley Fox said he also was surprised over the Parliament resolution on Bahrain, and said he agrees that it was "one sided and unbalanced." He suggested that the European Parliament should look again at the way it conducts urgency resolutions on human rights .

Swedish MEP Anna Maria Corraza Bildt told Al-Mulla, "we appreciate your frankness, because that is the spirit of our Delegation." "Our resolution is not a condemnation. It is an invitation to a dialogue. The Parliament has the right and duty to raise our concerns," he added.(end) nk.wsa KUNA 181049 Sep 13NNNN

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Publication:Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)
Date:Sep 18, 2013
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