The European Union signs historic new agreement with Iraq

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The first ever framework agreement between the EU and Iraq was signed today between Catherine Ashton, and the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari.

The EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement establishes a comprehensive platform for enhancing ties and cooperation in a wide range of areas: from political matters such as countering terrorism and promoting human rights, to trade and investment in key areas such as energy and services. After the signing ceremony Mrs Ashton said that for her "… this agreement is above all a symbol of the EU’s wish to be a positive partner for Iraq in its democratic efforts. It is a fitting testament to the EU’s determination to build a long-term partnership, not just today or tomorrow, but for many years to come.”

The new agreement will improve and clarify the trade arrangements between Iraq and the EU. It aims to promote vital investment and to help integrate Iraq into the international economy. It also sets out a framework for continuing cooperation in many areas, from heath and education to environment and energy.

EU-Iraq relations in the past

Under Saddam Hussein’s regime, the only interaction between the European Union and Iraq was on a humanitarian level with the Europe being an important actor in the humanitarian field. From 1992 onwards, the EU was the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to Iraq after the UN. The Union’s efforts directly after the war between 2003 and 2006 focused mainly on providing humanitarian relief and political and financial support to the country.

The year 2009 witnessed a common shift by the Government in Iraq and main donors away from short-term emergency reconstruction projects, towards a genuine long term development plan. Iraq, the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union all embarked upon preparations of their medium– to long – term development cooperation strategies. The overall objectives were made to be coherent and based on the most urgent Iraqi priorities which were good governance, sustainable economic growth and investment in human capital.

In 2010 EU reaffirmed its commitment to the country through bilateral agreements, when Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation were signed.  Through these agreements EU has established a comprehensive legal framework for enhancing ties in a wide range of areas from political matters, such as human rights and trade, to counter-terrorism.

Future aim: Good governance and socio-economic recovery

Today the main challenge for the EU-Iraq cooperation is to help Iraq mobilise and effectively use its own resources to improve the welfare of the Iraqi people and rebuild its infrastructure. European Union support in capacity building should leverage Iraqi reconstruction efforts in the direction of genuinely sustainable development. EU is committed in building new Iraq, and it has already targeted more than €1 billion towards the reconstruction of Iraq since 2003. The focal sectors of the European Union’s intervention are good governance, socio-economic recovery through education and strengthening institutional capacity, water management, agriculture and access to basic services. Issues such as human rights, gender and protection of vulnerable groups are for great concern to the EU.