In Abu Dhabi, delegations dispersed in the luxurious halls of the “Emirates Palace” which hosted the Gulf Cooperation Council’s 25th summit just as the meeting got lost discussing matters outside the Gulf… The summit examined the situation in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Palestine. A review of the final communiqué reveals the confusion in the Gulf summit’s mechanism and its preoccupation with external matters, whereas it is was meant to cover the affairs of member countries, not those of the region and the world at large. At every summit, foreign ministers dominate the agenda while ministers of industry and commerce remain on the sidelines.
A review of twenty five years of summit agendas and discussions reveal how a quarter century has elapsed with great ideas for cooperation but modest achievements. Delegations were focused on the Iranian nuclear capabilities, the Iraqi crisis, the new Arab headache, also known as the Lebanese-Syrian conflict, as well as the age-old problem, the Israeli occupation. With such complicated concerns, it is impossible for any summit to devote itself to a discussion of custom union, commercial licences, electricity links or identity cards. These issues appear trivial when compared to events in Iraq or the Iranian nuclear bomb. This is wrong. Implementing a custom union is much more important than the Palestinian issue. Linking electricity lines is more important than the situation across Iraq. Cooperation is more pressing than expressing one’s fears of Lebanese-Syrian relations.
I have set this priority list in respect for specialization and not according to the chauvinism of GCC members. In every summit and forum, faraway issues are discussed in preference to more pressing concern which meetings were originally created for. The state of the Arab world is constantly being discussed on a bilateral and international level through specialist ministers, foreign ministries, government circles and special envoys. But those issues to which only one summit is devoted should not vie with any other. Because some matters were left to the periphery in past summits, the electricity of member states has yet to be linked, the common market has yet to be established and travellers between GCC countries continue to use their passports.
If officials had announced summits would exclusively discuss internal GCC affairs, twenty five years would not have gone to waste.
Undoubtedly, organizers see in international affairs a publicity glint and feel that people’s concerns are trivial in comparison and not worthy of being discussed by leaders. This is a grave error. If a GCC summit were to succeed in an internal matter, it would leave a bigger impact than mere comments on regional issues that can be discussed at a later date. I feel that organizers dismiss popular concerns as not worthy of their leaders. Yet, leaders worldwide win or lose according to their position on local issues not international affairs. European Union summits are dominated by discussion on farm subsidies and visas whereas international issues are left for special meetings.