Monday, December 13, 2010
Yemen And The Gulf Cooperation Council
By Hussein Shabokshi
This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 13/12/2010
A few days ago, the 20th Gulf Cup of Nations football tournament, which was held in Yemen for the first time, came to an end. This was an extremely successful tournament, and it followed difficult months of fears that the stadiums would not be completed in time, as well as fears of security threats and violence. However Yemen surprised us all by organizing and hosting a highly successful tournament; we did not see any trouble or violence, but rather the largest crowds in the history of the Gulf Cup of Nations. This huge turnout gave the tournament a truly beautiful and unique flavor. Their success at hosting this tournament must have given rise to questions about when and how Yemen will finally join the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] which is an idea that has been raised from time to time; this idea has its supporters, as well as its opponents, and each party have their own justifications for their views.
Those who oppose this idea say that it would be inconsistent to allow Yemen to join an organization that is made up of countries with similar social, economic, and political aspects, especially when Yemen does not share these. There are many differences between Yemen and the GCC member-states, particularly with regards to Yemen's population, its economic situation, and the political and security instability in the country. However it is also easy to make an opposing case, saying that Yemen has existed side-by-side with the GCC member-states for since time immemorial and that there is a huge degree of coordination and similarity between these states. This is something that should not be underplayed, especially since Yemen has capital in the Gulf region and engages in trade and commerce there, while Yemeni laborers can be found throughout the Gulf and are widely respected.
Stability, and economic growth, will help Yemen to advance and develop. The relationship that Yemen has with the GCC states is one that is not unique or unprecedented in the history of the world. The US and Canada, for example, had to exert a lot of effort to alleviate fears of Mexico joining NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). At the time, Mexico was suffering from tremendous political and economic problems; the US – Mexico border was a major headache for America due to illegal immigration, and arms and drug trafficking.
However after Mexico joined NAFTA, its economic and political conditions improved as foreign capital was attracted to the country, resulting in Mexico becoming a major industrial base, supplying the US and Canadian markets with different goods. This resulted in unemployment rates improving and production increasing. Today, the European markets are facing the same challenge but this time with regards to Albania – a country which is considered by many to be a former eastern bloc state with an unstable political situation and countless economic problems. Chaos and instability in the country resulted in it becoming a refuge for organized crime. However the EU will have no choice but to accept Albania's membership, even though this could represent a threat to Europe at large. To a large extent, this also applies to the situation in Yemen; we must deal with this by offering more than aid and support – which while well intentioned – was not implemented correctly and did not produce the anticipated results.
The GCC member states are developing their regulations, and so there will be "rules" in place which [GCC] member-states must follow, particularly with regards to economics. Integration is on the way, however the GCC requires an industrial base that can utilize an inexpensive and industrious labor force…this is something that can be found in Yemen. These clever Yemeni laborers have proven their efficiency around the world, from the heart of America's car manufacturing industry in Michigan to Britain's steel industry in Sheffield. However the question is, can this issue develop so that we see a truly complete and harmonious Gulf market?
Yemen joining the GCC is an idea that merits serious consideration and a full inquiry.