10th Dec, 2013 –

1.      “Union” has always been on the GCC’s agenda

When the GCC came into being over 30 years ago it was envisioned that this was the beginning of a transition towards a “union” of the member states. There were ambitious plans for monetary union, customs union and unified economic regulation. However, citizens of the Arabian Gulf states were disappointed as these plans ceased to materialize.  

With the concept of a Gulf Union on the agenda again, there are hopes of renewed momentum towards these goals. GCC citizens are again optimistic about the idea of a Gulf Union.

2.      Consolidating GCC culture and identity

Gulf Arabs share a common language, religion and cultural heritage. Family and tribal links are extended across national boundaries as a result of close historic links across this region. The Union project recognizes and celebrates this and helps forge a greater sense of collective Gulf citizenship.

3.      Union will accelerate economic integration

The GCC has been working towards reducing barriers to closer economic integration. This includes initiatives for a customs union, a unified monetary system and labour force, as well as reducing trade barriers. GCC businesses stand to benefit from the opportunity to easily operate across the entire GCC market. This will also benefit foreign businesses and investors which can more easily enter an expanded GCC marketplace.

4.      The Union facilitates physical and geographical union

With the possibility of a Qatar-Bahrain Causeway joining the already existing Saudi-Bahrain Causeway, the GCC states physically become a closer unit. Commercial vehicles can travel from the industrial hub of Dammam in Saudi Arabia into Manama in less than an hour. A similar highway through to Qatar would open doors for tourists and businesspeople to similarly travel from Manama, through Doha and into the Emirates in a remarkably short space of time, making the geographical barriers of the past largely irrelevant.

5.      Jobs and opportunities for young Gulf nationals

Gulf nations have to wrestle with the challenge of growing young populations looking for jobs, education and future prospects. Greater mobility across the region, enhanced business openings and a more level playing field for regulations, education and services benefits everybody and cements a perception of shared ‘Khaleeji’ identity.

6.      A stronger international GCC voice

The Gulf Union can bring about a stronger consensus of vision and joint strategy in responding to regional challenges. This opens the doors for collective action and gives member states greater political, economic and diplomatic muscle on the world stage.

7.      GCC states should primarily rely on each other

The US deal with Iran over the nuclear issue throws the spotlight back on the Gulf Union initiative, given the possibilities for shifting alliances and concerns that the views of the Arab Gulf states may not be sufficiently accommodated.

Saudi Assistant Foreign Minister Nizar Madani: “Gulf countries should no longer depend on others to ensure their safety… they must unite under one political entity in order to face internal and external challenges.”

8.      Gulf states are best placed to jointly manage security challenges

Collective action by local states in reaction to security challenges enjoys greater legitimacy and acceptance than intervention by foreign forces. GCC states also best understand the sensitivities and specifics of local challenges and can respond accordingly. The GCC Peninsular Shield Forces expand the joint capacity of national military apparatuses.

9.      The Gulf Union will act to counter Iranian interference

Iran uses militias, clandestine networks and media campaigns to undermine security in countries across the region. Unity of the Arab Gulf states can counter this interference and send a clear message to the Iranian regime about the unacceptability of this behaviour.

10.  Economic and political unity reinforce each other

Political and economic union could and should go together hand-in-hand to ensure greater unification of the business environment and to reassure people that increased financial and economic openness does not open new doors for security risks or cross-border criminal activity.


Political elites need to do more to open up a public debate about the benefits and rewards of such a Gulf Union. Because so much of the discussion has gone on behind closed doors, there is a lack of awareness of what this initiative can offer ordinary people and the business community and how this project can serve the interests of individual nations.

Even if there is much work to be done in making the union vision a reality; we can look to the leaders of the region to seize the opportunity of the Kuwait GCC summit with both hands in order to put their nations definitively on the path of a shared goal of partnership and solidarity.

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