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The Relationship with the GCC - an Effective Tool for Promotion of EU Regionalism?

Valentina Kostadinova

Promotion of regionalism has been the most distinctive foreign policy of the EU. It is inspired by the belief that regional integration in Europe was the source of European post-World War Two recovery and success. In an effort to replicate this elsewhere, the Union's policy of exporting regionalism has sought to achieve several main aims, spread its model of governance, ensure regional peace and stability, or facilitate economic gains. This paper looks at the EU-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) inter-regional relationship and examines how effective it has been in attaining the above aims. The paper reviews the current state of the relationship and building on interviews with EU and GCC officials establishes the main ways in which the EU has contributed to the integration of the GCC member states. It argues that above all the EU has been a model for regional integration between the GCC member states. Cooperation within the GCC has successfully contributed to maintaining regional peace and stability as well as led to economic gains for the member states. However, spreading EU's model of governance has been much more challenging. Thus, the aims pursued by the Union's policy of promoting regionalism are not always concurrent. In fact, at times regional cooperation in other parts of the world can constrain EU's ability to successfully influence them. This is illustrated by the situation in Bahrain during the last few months. The paper views it as a possible trigger for further integration between the GCC member states, most likely not entirely in the direction preferred by the EU. This situation exposes important limitations of the Union's policy of promoting regionalism and poses the question how should the EU engage with the GCC and its member states in future. Thus, this study contributes to the literature on regionalism empirically by providing insights into the EU-GCC relationship and theoretically by conceptualizing limitations and challenges to EU's policy of promotion of regionalism.

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