Following Bahrain’s independence from the United Kingdom, Bahrain has established diplomatic relations with many countries in Europe, as well as the European Union. This is in addition to the existing relationships between the GCC and the EU, as well as the EFTA.
Cooperation Agreement between the GCC and European Union
The European Union and the GCC—including Bahrain—signed a cooperation agreement in 1988. This agreement fostered closer trade and diplomatic relationships between the GCC countries and European Union countries. The cooperation agreement is designed to facilitate economic and political relations, broaden technical cooperation, and expand cooperation in the following industries: energy, trade, agriculture, fishing, investment, science and technology, and the environment.
The EU member countries also provide information and guidance on monetary union (the Euro) for the GCC to undergo a similar transition. The agreement created annual Joint Council/Ministerial Meetings between EU and GCC foreign ministers, as well as established a Joint Cooperation Committee between senior officials.
Free Trade Agreement Negotiations
Both the EU and GCC are committed to negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Negotiations toward an FTA began in 1990. Negotiations toward an FTA halted for a period in 2008 when the GCC suspended all negotiations in which they were involved. Since that time, there have been periodic contacts discussing the FTA negotiations to move toward a conclusion. The EU and GCC Free Trade Agreements will provide the liberalisation of trade in goods and services and remove trade barriers between the GCC and EU.
The GCC-EFTA Agreement
In June 2009, the GCC and European Free Trade Association (including Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland) signed a Free Trade Agreement known as the GCC-EFTA Agreement. The FTA established the liberalisation of goods and services as well as mutually enhancing investment opportunities between these two associations of countries. Most imports to the GCC have custom duties eliminated, while duty-free access from EFTA states extends to industrial goods, including fish and other marine products. The agreement also established bilateral trade for agriculture between the GCC and three EFTA countries.
The most recent trade figures for importing and exporting between Bahrain and European countries are from August 2020. The highest number of imports into Bahrain was Switzerland with an import value of 84,190,826.931 BD or 190,974,351.83 €. Italy had the fourth largest amount of imports to Bahrain. Overall, the European Union imports over 41,000,521.978 BD or 92,756,835.61 € in August 2020.
The eighth highest number of exports from Bahrain was to the Netherlands with an import value of 6,368,927.603 BD or 14,410,999.52 €. Spain followed as the thirteenth largest export market with an export value of 5,146,922.647 BD or 11,644,530.80 €. Overall, Bahrain exported over 20,332,510.579 BD or 45,982,198.24 € to the European Union in August 2020.
Embassies and Consulates in Bahrain and Europe
As part of the diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Europe, there are a number of embassies and consulates. Five European countries have embassies in Manama, Bahrain, including France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Ten European countries have consulates in Bahrain: Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Bahrain has embassies in six European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and the United Kingdom. These embassies and consulates facilitate relationships between citizens of Bahrain and European countries.
European Businesses in Bahrain
Business plays a prominent role in Bahrain and European relations. Many small and medium businesses from European countries such as Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have established themselves in Bahrain. Other European businesses have set up their regional bases in Bahrain. These are some of the European businesses who have set up in Bahrain:
Allianz Global Investors
Blue Dot Planet
The Italian Trade Agency
Tatweer Petroleum and Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI) Bahrain
Alba and Fluorsid S.p.A
Alba and FATA S.p.A
Alba and Techmo Car S.P.C
Al Salam Bank and OMP Racing S.p.A
GPIC and Saipem/Snamprogetti S.p.A (ENI Group)