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
“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.”