Landmark cooperation deal with Iraq gets a green light

The Louise Weiss building in Strasbourg, France, the official seat of the European Parliament. The EU parliamentary members approved the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the regional bloc and Iraq on Jan. 17. Photo by: © European Union 2012 - European Parliament / CC BY-NC-ND

The European Parliament has approved a landmark agreement with Iraq that is meant to boost trade and development ties over the next 10 years. Although the deal was not spearheaded by the EU’s aid department, it nevertheless offers new clues into the regional bloc’s priorities for the fragile Mideast democracy.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement’s clauses on security, human rights protection and other sectors were among those that the EU parliamentarians highlighted in a Jan. 17 resolution that approved the 10-year agreement.

The dialogue between the EU and Iraqi authorities must focus on human rights and fundamental freedoms, the lawmakers noted. They commended the Iraqi government’s pledge to promote effective civil society participation and cautioned that Iraq’s failure to protect, enhance and respect human rights would “negatively affect” cooperation and economic development programs.

The European Parliament called on Iraq’s leaders to ensure transparency and responsible spending; improve its security efforts to combat violence and better protect civilians and religious minorities; and update its laws to reflect gender equality, empower women and prohibit child labor, prostitution and human trafficking.

They also:

  • Cited the need to address the Iraqi population’s humanitarian needs and ensure better government coordination with aid organizations to assist refugees, the internally displaced and other vulnerable groups.

  • Urged the EU to pledge and contribute in securing humane living conditions in refugee camps.

  • Encouraged nongovernmental organizations to contribute to the strengthening of democracy and human rights by providing targeted assistance, especially to women.

  • Noted that EU cooperation aims to combat poverty, promote fundamental freedom and meet basic health, education and employment needs.

  • Asked for Iraq to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty as soon as possible and support the planned U.N. conference on a nuclear-free Middle East.

  • Lauded the recent establishment of the independent High Commission for Human Rights and the opening of an EU delegation to Iraq in Baghdad.

The first-of-its-kind agreement, signed in May by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat, and Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, aims to promote vital investments, clarify trade arrangements and help integrate Iraq into the global economy. It also sets out a framework for continuing cooperation in many areas such as health, energy, education and the environment.

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    Adrienne Valdez

    Adrienne Valdez is a staff writer for Devex, covering breaking international development news for the Development Newswire. Before joining Devex, Adrienne worked as a news correspondent for a public-sector modernization publication.