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International Partnerships

The Middle East and the Gulf

We are committed to creating the conditions for peace in our Middle Eastern and Gulf partner countries. Our cooperation is consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and aims to reduce the immediate suffering of the region’s population and to fostering reconstruction and development.

Our development cooperation is carried out with 3 countries in the Middle East and Gulf region, namely Iran, Iraq and Yemen. The support we offer caters to the countries’ needs in their respective political, economic, and social contexts:

  • while hosting more than 3 million Afghan refugees and migrants, Iran also suffers from drastic environmental degradation, including the disappearance of its wetlands
  • the Iraqi government faces the challenge of re-establishing security, good administration and basic public services after more than a decade of long-lasting and severe violence
  • many years of armed conflict in Yemen have pushed the poorest country of the Arab Peninsula into a humanitarian crisis, with famine and disease among the most immediate challenges

We address the root causes of conflict, violence, and fragility by combining humanitarian and development policy, and by creating synergies between various SDGs.

The 6 countries making up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are increasingly important political actors in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The significance this holds for the EU has been stressed in the EU Global Strategy. Dialogue on development cooperation with GCC countries is ongoing both bilaterally and through several international fora, such as the G20 Summit and the Arab-Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Dialogue on Development.


Our programmes

Our support in the Middle East and Gulf region is specific to each country.

We cooperate with Iran in areas such as nuclear safety, trade and the private sector, the environment, climate change, drug demand reduction, and cultural heritage. Moreover, we empower civil society actors and support their contribution to local governance and development processes. We also provide humanitarian and long-term help to Iran’s efforts to host its large Afghan refugee population. Our support to Iran in these areas amounts to over €150 million between 2016-2020.

In Iraq, we support projects in areas such as early recovery and resilience, the provision of basic public services such as healthcare, education, energy and water, sustainable job creation, private sector development, migration, and capacity building such as in public finance management. We are also involved in the restoration of cultural heritage and support rural communities to restore their agricultural livelihoods and economic activities, developing agribusiness and value chains. We support Iraq in overcoming environmental challenges by assisting in the management of its natural resources. Since 2014, our ongoing development cooperation portfolio in Iraq amounts to over €309 million. In 2019 and 2020, we will disburse another €145 million to improve governance and sustainable job creation there.

Our approach in Yemen centres on humanitarian assistance and development cooperation. From the beginning of the conflict in 2015-2019, the EU has contributed more than €574 million to Yemen, including €244 million in development assistance alone. Development support aims to assist in the fields of education, health and nutrition; to support the resilience of key institutions and communities in rural and urban areas to ensure the provision of basic services to the Yemeni population; and to prevent a total collapse of the state structure. Additionally, it focuses on creating opportunities to secure Yemenis’ livelihoods, particularly in the agricultural sector to enhance food security.