Arab citizens of GCC states have welcomed Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz’s proposal for a Gulf Union, which he announced on Monday. “The union has become a necessity in these fast-changing conditions,” said a former Bahraini editor Fareed Hassan.
“It could be mainly political, but also economic. These are the times for high-powered coalitions and the Gulf countries are well aware of the need to get closer and work together in order to move ahead confidently in very uncertain times,” he said.
The Al Asala society, the flagship for Salafism in Bahrain, said GCC countries needed to work together to confront the lurking threats. “The call by the Saudi monarch was issued at a critical time for the region under extremely ominous threats to its very existence,” the society said. “No single country can deal with such high risks, and coordination, coalition and moving from cooperation to union is the only way forward. The situation in the neighbouring countries is extremely tense and threats to our own countries are real.
Strong line of defence
“The GCC has proved that it is a strong line of defence and should be reinforced.” Ebtisam Hijris, one of four women lawmakers in the lower chamber of Bahrain’s bicameral parliament, welcomed the call as the answer to the threats facing the region. “The people of the region have now raised their expectations and appreciate the extent of the dangers lurking around them,” she said. “There have been tremendous changes in the region and threats to the council have become visible and clear. The people in Bahrain now realise the significance of the union,” she added.
Emirati Fahd Al Jasmi, was greatly in favour of the union. “It’s better for the Gulf to unite. Many years ago Shaikh Zayed believed in the same idea,” he told Gulf News. Emirati Fatima Saleh, 29, said: “I think this can have very good potential, economically. Uniting will make us stronger and give us more prospects in the future.”
Others welcome the union but have set their expectations low. “A Gulf union is a dream that is not practical,” Awad Bakhuwair, a political analyst in Oman, told Gulf News. He said the suggestion from King Abdullah probably emanated more out of security concerns in the region as well as the recent changes in the Arab World.
“They [GCC leaders] know they have failed in achieving a common currency, trade and other goals set within the GCC — then how can they talk about bigger dreams?” he asked. However, he agreed that the idea was good but implementing it would be difficult. “They will have to carry out studies and chart out the map on how the union would be; will it be like a federal body, like the European Union, or like the American system?”
Bakhuwair pointed out that forming a union will demand stronger political will. “Each of the six GCC members has different political views — even on Iran each country has a different view,” he said. Emirati lawyer Nasser Malalla Ganem also said a union was not that easy. “For example, each government differs in economic support to their people, so how will this be uniform? But in general it will be better for us in terms of travelling, business opportunities and the economy in general,” he told Gulf News.