EU-GCC Forum to explore dialogue, cooperation

Updated 20 March 2017
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EU-GCC Forum to explore dialogue, cooperation

RIYADH: The EU-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Forum on the achievements of EU integration, and lessons learned from it, will be held in Riyadh on Wednesday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community (EEC).
EU Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso on Monday said a program has been lined up for Wednesday at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh.
The event will begin with a welcome address by Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg, GCC assistant secretary-general for political negotiations.
This will be followed by brief speeches from ambassadors of countries that founded the EU, such as Italy, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France. D’Urso will also address the gathering. Following the speeches, a documentary will be screened to highlight the history of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.
D’Urso said GCC member countries are ideal partners for EU members due to their stability and economic viability. “We would like to have person-to-person contact with the GCC-EU member countries through mutual understanding,” he said, adding that the EU also cooperates with the GCC in security affairs. He expressed hoped that the long-awaited GCC-EU Free-Trade Agreement will soon come into force.
In addition to GCC members, he said the EU is interested in the affairs of neighboring countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya.
Under Vision 2030, the envoy said Saudi Arabia is engaged in ambitious reforms to diversify its economy and improve education and social development. These reforms, he added, will also have a positive effect on the countries of the region.
He said thousands of Saudis study in the EU and understand its peoples well, but there is a need for more people-to-people dialogue.
“Europe understands better the transformation process in the Kingdom, and we hope to strengthen relations with key government agencies such as the Shoura Council and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA),” D’Urso said.


World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city in eastern Saudi Arabia on her way to Bahrain on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
Updated 25 June 2018
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World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

  • As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips
  • The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet 

JEDDAH: The world awoke on Sunday to images and video footage many thought they would never see — newly empowered Saudi women taking the wheel and driving their cars.

As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-time drivers.

The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

“I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream,” she said.

In a tribute to Saudi female drivers, the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji released a special video of a song she performed live in Riyadh at a concert last December “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars,” she said. “Congratulations on this achievement, this one’s for you!”

Back home in Saudi Arabia, the atmosphere was euphoric. “It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah Algosaibi said as she cruised around the city of Alkhobar. 

“Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she said, pointing to the back.

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” said Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena, one of the first women to drive in the Kingdom.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.

“But I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”