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The Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries

News Bulletin

Vol.2 No.1

January 1976

Published by the Information Dept ; OAPEC, P.O. Box 20501, Kuwait.


Arab-European Dialogue Continues to Identify Possible Fields of Cooperation

Ahmed El-Saadi Senior Economic Researcher, OAPEC.

A milestone in the history of Arab-European relations was reached in 1975 when, during the period from June to November, representatives of the Arab and European communities met three timesThe first and second meetings were surveyed in the November issue of the bulletin by Dr.George Tomeh in an article, "On The Eve Of The Arab-European Dialogue". to formulate a comprehensive blueprint covering all the possibilities of cooperation between the two regions. The meetings were unique in that on each occasion more than 100 representatives from each side were present and that, in addition to the member states of the European Economic Community, the Arab countries and Arab specialized organizations, the Palestine Liberation Organization took full part in the dialogue.

The meetings were made mode possible by a political decision of the European Economic Community (EEC) which, an November 6, 1973, affirmed the need for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories and recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people. The Arab summit conference, held on November 26, welcomed the European declaration and approved the holding of a dialogue with the EEC countries.

Since then, there have been three extensive rounds of dialogue in which the various Fields of cooperation have been explored. Nevertheless, the Europeans have consistently postponed meetings of the General Commission whose function was to start and to guide the pattern of the dialogue.
Political considerations were the cause of the postponment : there was general

European opposition to the presence in the Commission of the Palestine Liberation Organization as an independent delegation despite the fact that the political component of the dialogue included full discussion of the Palestine problem and the establishment of the rights of the Palestine people, represented by the PLO which has been recongnized by all the Arab governments as the legal spokesman for all Palestinians. Thus, while views have been exchanged on multifarious points of cooperation, the political dialogue - - intended to be the starting point - - has not yet begun.

Preparatory Stage

This state of affairs is not likely to last much longer as the convening of the General Commission has at been approved. This body and the foreign ministers of the participating states will study all the issues involved in the continwing dialogue and its approval will be necessary before any agreements are ratified by the states conceerned. Most important of all is the necessity to find agreement on the political issue on which the dialogue was founded.

Thus, the Arab-European dialogue may be described as still being in the preparatory stage with the meetings taking the form of siminars in which the discussions are intended to form the basis of a comprehensive agreement - - or agreements - - for cooperation in various spheres proposed during the seminars.

The tenor of the diallogue varies from an exchange of views during a general discussion on the areas of cooperation open to agreement to the achievement of a comprehensive accord covering in extensive detail economic, social and cultural cooperation. To all this must be added the political issues yet to be discussed.

One major result of the three meetings held so far has been the formation of committees of experts to study the various possibilities of cooperation. Agreement in principle on a number of issues has been stamped. The future is still uncertain pending discussion in the General Commission of the seminar’s deliberations and recommendations. Finally, the Foreign ministers must approve the steps to be taken before ratification by the participating states is sought.

Abu Dhabi Meeting

The most important developments of the Arab-European dialogue following

the Abu Dhabi meeting of experts on November 22-27, 1975 may be summarized under three headings :

1. Convening of the General Commission

The Europeans have now agreed to the convening of the General Commission and the date for the first meeting will be determined after consultation between the two sides. It is expected that the meeting will be held in January, 1976. It will, however, not take the form of a political forum to formulate the ggeneral outlines and principles of the dialogue. Instead, the Commission’s discussions will be similar in form to those of the experts taking port in the dialogue and will be intended to assess the results achieved by the experts and to examine other related questions without clear reference to any political issue.

This means that, despite the agreement to convene the Commission, no accord has yet been reached on its functions, its authority and, in particular, on its discussion of the political issues and their influence on the course if the dialogue.

2. Specialized Groups

The areas of possible Arab-European cooperation were identified at the Cairo and Rome meetings. At Abu Dhabi it was agreed that joint specialized groups should be formed to collect information and data, complete studies under way and commence new studies on fields of cooperation agreed upon. The aim is to identify projects which can be implemented, particularly those in the areas of industry, agriculture, infrastructure, training and scientific and technological research. Thus, the dialogue is set to enter the stage of implementation and it will deal with practicalities now that tentative identification has been made of fields of cooperation, and some projects have been proposed.

3. Difficulties Identified

At the Abu Dhabi meeting the difficult issues were identified. They included such subjects as the transfer of technical knowledge, financail cooperation, labour problems and trade. If agreement is not reached on these points it must adversely affect other issues on which progress has been made. This is evident from their importance and their influence on cooperation in industrialization, agricultural expansion and other development projects.

Differences of Approach

The Arabs have enumerated their major aims : increased development among them and, in the political sphere, the conflict with Israel and that country’s disregard for the rights of the Palestinian people. Even though the Arab stand is based on right and justice, it has conveyed the impression that the Arabs are inflexible in their demands and are unwilling to compromise. The Europeans sit as negotiators. They do not demand but they explore possibilities and exchange views with the object of creating an atmosphere beneficial to their desire to safeguard and develop their interests in the Arab countries. Still, it must be stressed that the Arabs certainly do not see the dialogue as a forum for demands alone. The fact is that the Arab trump cards, which can set the tone for give and take, are held by the Europeans. They are : the increasing flow of Arab funds for imports and for capital investments.
Furthermore, Europe’s needs for crude oil have been securely guaranteed.
In addition, there are bilateral Arab-European agreements. In effect the result has been that the Arabs have not played their trumps. The Europeans have. In their hand they hold such aces as expertise, technology and markets for Arab agricultural and industrial projects.

European Listeners

The European stance is that of listener - - questioning, discussing and criticizing the Arab arguments. The Arabs have been forced to take the initiative, to propound their ideas on projects and to air their views on other points for discussion. All this has come at a time when the Arabs do not have complete studies on which to base their case and to adopt a final position. This has placed difficulties in the way of the Arab’s position in the negotiations. What is a master plan for Arab economic development.

Coordination Needed

More coordination among the Arabs is needed to set their case on solid ground for their meetings with the Europeans. This can only be achieved through regular exchanges of information and discussion of points of view which, perhaps, places the responsibility for action on national planning authorities as well as the General Secretariat of the Arab League and specialized Arab organizations.

Such interchanges would undoubtedly provide the Arab side with a comprehensive knowledge of development needs and enable it to pinpoint accurately actual requirements. This would lead to the tabling of specific proposals in concert. It is important that membership of the same representatives of states in the dialogue committees should continue as a necessary requirement for following up and implementing the issues discussed.

These steps can contribute to a general strengthening of the Arab position in the negotiations and they will not only produce positive results for the Arabs but for the Europeans as well.

Impact on Arab International Relations

Arab issues have emerged into the limelight in European countries since the October 1973 War and the continuing dialogue has made them the subject of intensive study which has produced a reconsideration of views and standpoints in that region. The dialogue, also, has stressed the obvious potentialities of cooperation with the Arabs and the avenues of mutual collaboration open for the benefit of both sides. Nevertheless, there must be solid support for the negotiating stand of the Arabs so that foreign ambitions are not allowed to override right and justice.
A stong Arab stand can still ensure the establishment of cordial relations favourable to both sides.

The dialogue has posed a challenge to the Arabs to foster cooperation and the interchange of ideas on a continuing basis. The possibilities of cooperation with the Europeans have become clearly evident, particularly in the fields of training, research and the establishment and development of technological institutions.

But the Arabs must not give more away than they accept and it is incumbent on all the Arab countries to exert a determined effort to strengthen their joint resources and act in unison now in the future.

The Arab Petroleum Services Company

The Arab Petroleum Services Company, the fourth joint project established by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, was founded during the fifteenth meeting of the OAPEC Council of Ministers held in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on November 22, 1975.

Official announcement of its formation and of commencement of operations will be made after the agreement which established the company has been ratified by member states.

Headquarters of the company will be in Tripoli, Libyan Arab Republic. Branch offices may be established in OAPEC member countries and elsewhere abroad.

The Company’s objectives are to provide services through the establishment of one or more companies specializing in various petroleum services or other activities. In order to attain these objectives the company may undertake technical, economic and legal studies and recruit Arab personnel necessary to ensure completion of these tasks.

Among its objectives, the company will undertake to train specialized technical personnel from nationals of the member states selected on an equitable quota system. The posts offered will provide suitable career opportunities within the company and its specialized branches.

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