The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invested billions and is one of the most prominent foreign governments to lobby European Union (EU) institutions. They have been carrying out a lobbying operation that is visible but underreported. United Arab Emirates lobbying activities play out pretty well in the halls and meetings of the European Parliament.
EU-UAE Friendship Group Support To The UAE Is Evident
The members of the EU-UAE Friendship Group consist of some center-right politicians. These politicians are a part of the UAE lobbying system in the EU. According to an Observatory recognized in a 2019 report, the far-right parties tend to sympathize with the UAE authorities. This is a clear result of the lobbying done by the UAE.
Many former members of the parliament have been playing an important role in portraying UAE as a tolerant nation. The EPP group has also shown strong support to the UAE in the past few years. A former member of the European Parliament, who sat with the EPP group in the previous term of 2019 was approached by the UAE officials. The UAE strategy has three core elements:
“Their approach in the European Parliament is based on three directions. First, they organize events that are built around specific moments, and they make sure there is a theatre for this. One example is the event that was held in early 2019 on the UAE’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Secondly, through the Friendship Group, they try to cultivate relationships, and third, more recently they have started building a network with intelligence services around Europe.”
Events Organized By The UAE At The European Parliament
The UAE organized several events at the European Parliament that have helped them in many ways. If we take a look at the EU-UAE Friendship Group and its activities, we can spot a lot of suspicious things. There are several foreign policy advisors from various political groups who have helped Emirates to put influence the MEPs. This has affected the decision-making processes that make a lot of relevance to the UAE. Most people who are ready to talk about the issue want to stay anonymous.
EU-UAE Parliamentarian Friendship Group
Friendship groups are the unofficial formations that are existing for some years now. They also stay active and parallel to the Parliament’s official and permanent delegations. Members of these groups don’t have any official status when they are traveling abroad. They also do not come out in front during any official meetings held by the Parliament.
Official delegates can speak on the behalf of the parliament but these officials are not allowed to do so. These groups present themselves as official bodies in the foreign media and create an illusion that they can speak on the behalf of the official delegates.
As the friendship groups are informal, there are no lists of official members available. No documentation shows the activities of these people. These members play an important role in lobbying activities and have helped UAE in many ways. In terms of transparency, for example, both the Morocco and Qatar friendship groups have websites that have information about their members and events. EU and UAE friendship groups don’t reveal any information about their members or the events they participate in.
Friendship Groups Are Just A Mouth Piece Of The Foreign Governments
Antonio López-Istúriz White, the founder of the EU-UAE Friendship Group, commented on the allegation of the friendship groups being the mouthpieces of foreign governments. This is the response he gave:
“I completely reject those claims. Firstly, we are not financed by the government, the council, the embassies, or by anyone else. Second, I do not think anyone can say I am the mouthpiece for anyone. My perception of the groups is that they can inform members and that they offer space for discussion. I do not consider them as foreign government tools for favorable campaigns. I do not think I ever made any public declaration in favor of the friendship group […] I chair the group in the same way as I chair the Israel Delegation. If anyone wants to impose something on me, I am out. I am not here to do publicity.”