Muscat: Oman is a strategic partner of the European Union (EU) in the region, thanks to the Sultanate’s prudent stance in economic and political issues, an EU diplomat told the Times of Oman.
Speaking at the EU delegation working breakfast with journalists during his visit to Oman, Michele Cervone d’Urso, ambassador of EU to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) highlighted that Oman and EU goals to achieve regional economic and political stability are aligned and that there is need to increase bilateral cooperation and understanding between EU members and Oman as it aims to increase its presence in Oman.
“We see Oman as a strategic partner in GCC and beyond to address some of the crisis situation in broader region. There is also a huge scope of stepping up bilateral relations between EU and Oman,” he stated.
“We need to better understand Oman in Europe. They put everyone in the same basket at times. It’s safer here than in most places. Tourism is potential area, where we are doing well and can improve too.”
Trade between GCC countries has grown by over 53 per cent in the past decade.
Trade in goods between EU and GCC crossed $160 billion last year, with exports from EU accounting for a major share with nearly $120 billion imported by gulf countries. Bilateral trade in services also increased substantially to $55 billion in 2014, from $42 billion in 2010. The EU has been involved in many areas in the Sultanate, including Tanfeedh, the National Plan for Economic Diversification.
Oman’s largest Foreign Direct Investment comes from its long-term ally, the United Kingdom, which is also expected to leave the EU in a divorce process that can go on beyond 2019. Cervone d’Urso believes this can be an opportunity for other EU members, while also bringing back to life dormant EU-GCC Free Trade Agreement negotiations that have been on since 1990.
“In terms of economic diversification, we can provide substantial support. In Oman, we are involved in Tanfeedh’s agriculture labs. We are looking at providing suggestions in Oman’s agriculture and downstream sector.
“We are also working closely to advise in housing legislation and Public Private Partnership discussions. We are also into renewable energy initiatives. The opportunities here are huge. EU member states can be more supportive and increase engagement. There will be more EU activities engaging Oman. There is a lot of opportunity even when U.K. leaves EU as other countries can take the opportunity to enhance relations with Oman. Talks on FTA can also be back on the table, but at the moment due to the Gulf crisis, it will be an issue. Now we are trying to achieve more cooperation agreement as FTA has to be with the whole of GCC, but bilateral agreements is something we can have.”
The EU delegation is organising a GCC-EU business forum in the United Arab Emirates soon and is expecting Omani businesses to take part in it as it aims to increase trade in the region. It is also majorly focusing on resolving the GCC crisis.
“We are aligned with Oman’s stance in the GCC issue and want it to resolve as soon as possible. We are working to resolve it in every way we can.”
“We have a monthly meeting between us and seven ambassadors of member states present in Oman, where we coordinate and discuss our policies. We hope for more in terms of country presence.
“There will certainly be more engagement with Oman in the future,” Cervone d’Urso added.