Renewed engagement with Iraq
The Commission has proposed renewed European Union (EU) engagement with Iraq, taking stock of the situation since 2004 and the challenges that Iraq must tackle if security is to be restored. The framework for dialogue and cooperation between the two partners is based on recommendations and objectives promoting political, economic and social reconstruction in Iraq. The main axes of EU engagement must focus on strengthening the rule of law based on respect for ethnic and religious communities and an administration capable of providing basic services to the population, and on economic development and diversification based on the country's own natural resources.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 7 June 2006: Recommendations for renewed European Union engagement with Iraq [COM(2006) 283 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission has proposed renewed EU engagement with Iraq based on its evaluation of the situation in Iraq and of relations between the two partners since the Framework for Engagement drawn up in 2004.
The political and constitutional process in Iraq has made progress, with the formation of the first Government, the 2005 elections and the new constitution. This notwithstanding, Iraq still faces instability, political tensions, and a deteriorating security environment.
In this context, the determinant factors for increased EU engagement are security and respect for the ethnic and religious communities in the political process.
CHALLENGES FOR IRAQ
The main challenges facing the new Iraqi government are interdependent, and are both political and economic in nature. The response to these challenges must be geared to benefiting the population at large and must therefore focus on better administration, economic stability and sustainable growth in order to consolidate democracy and stimulate the economy.
Consolidating democracy and strengthening civil society
Strengthening the democratic foundations of the country is essential to the continued pursuit of the political process of democratisation. The scheduled local and regional elections and the constitutional review process must go hand in hand with a stronger and more active civil society and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
National cohesion requires respect for the ethnic and religious communities. The choice of model of governance and how it is applied within the public administration will be crucial, as the formation of a national unity government has already shown. Nonetheless, national reconciliation remains essential, especially in order to safeguard Iraq's territorial integrity and prevent negative repercussions in neighbouring states.
Security and the rule of law are indissociable and need to be strengthened. The insecurity generated by sectarian-based violence, the impotence of the security forces, organised crime and street violence has caused widespread internal migration. Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) initiatives to combat violations of human rights, stop the displacement of whole communities and restore confidence are therefore essential.
Achieving the basis for sustainable economic development
Economic recovery presupposes viable basic services and the creation of employment opportunities and income generation activities. The knock-on effects will be felt in improved security and quality of life and a better utilisation of the country's human capital.
Establishing a functioning administrative framework will make for good economic management, the provision of essential public services and the development and implementation of public policies. Reforming the public administration, with the support of the international community, will make it possible to modernise the civil service and enhance its competence and capabilities.
The country's economic development needs to be based on:
- its energy resources. Iraq's large reserves of oil and natural gas remain largely unexploited (problems include aging infrastructures and outmoded techniques, lack of transparency, looting and trafficking), while heavy dependency on oil revenues makes the country very vulnerable to external economic factors;
- economic diversification as a factor of prosperity. Water and agriculture are sectors that could generate income, create jobs and encourage investment, but only within the framework of a secure budgetary and regulatory environment.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR EU SUPPORT
Iraq is a country rich in human, natural and cultural resources, which can serve as a foundation for stability and prosperity.
A stable and prosperous Iraq is also vital for its neighbours and international partners, including the EU, for security, economic, energy and political reasons. In this context, the EU is well placed to support Iraq, given its geographical proximity, its international role and its experience in post-conflict situations. It can also make good use of such instruments as political dialogue, financial aid, cooperation in the domain of the rule of law and the relations it has developed with Iraq to strengthen its engagement with that country.
In the short term, the EU should, for maximum impact, focus its engagement on certain key objectives that can yield tangible results. Nonetheless, Iraqi political will and improvement in the security situation will determine the nature of the EU's continued engagement. This engagement must ensure, moreover, that the EU's actions and its support for the actions of the United Nations and the other international players are carried out in a complementary manner.
A democratic government that overcomes divisions
It is essential that the government and the administration reflect the ethnic and religious composition of the population. Respect for the electoral process is also another way of restoring confidence.
The EU will support civil society and national, regional and local institutions, and will work with the international partners in the political process. Its support could make a contribution to:
- inter-community relations, and particularly strategies and initiatives promoting respect, dialogue and national reconciliation while at the same time combating sectarianism, and policies supporting a multi-ethnic, pluri-confessional administration;
- Iraq's territorial integrity and national unity, promoting regional cooperation and relations with regional players;
- the constitutional review process, where the Member States can provide valuable experience, and including support for ambitious measures relating to public information and dialogue with the people;
- democratic and parliamentary institutions, through measures such as technical and other assistance and exchanges and twinning programmes to build up capacity. Support could also include continued assistance for the Independent Electoral Commission and other civil society organisations.
Establishing security through the rule of law and respect for human rights
The EU is already involved in this area, both through the work of individual Member States and in the framework of EU instruments like the EUJUST LEX mission launched in 2005. Pursuing European security and defence policy (ESDP), this mission works with all the players involved to develop an integrated rule of law / criminal justice system.
Its experience can be used to underpin:
- the preparation of a rule-of-law programme to strengthen the civil and criminal justice systems;
- development of a culture of respect for human rights and implementation of international conventions while building up the appropriate capacities for safeguarding them;
- disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration activities (DDR).
Nonetheless, the Iraqi government still needs to curb the militias and non-government militarised groups and to create a supportive framework in which civil society can operate.
Basic services and employment
Improving access for the Iraqi population to basic services (water, education, electricity, health and sanitation) will improve the quality of life and foster sustainable stability. The EU has made a major contribution to such work through Community aid and close cooperation with the UN, but the commitment of the Iraqi government to social development is indispensable, particularly to secure the effective use of the aid supplied. The Iraqi National Development Strategy adopted in 2004 could, once updated, provide a platform for the implementation of these programmes.
Employment is a priority, but it requires an environment conducive to job creation and the development of income-generating activities. This could be addressed by harmonising the various reconstruction programmes, encouraging job creation in the private sector, including in small and medium-sized enterprises, and promoting a diversification of the economy.
Mechanisms to pave the way for economic recovery and prosperity
The Iraqi government needs to commit itself to the economic reforms that will boost growth, development and prosperity, help put an end to corruption and allow it to optimise the use of its resources.
Dialogue, cooperation programmes, exchanges of experience and financial aid are all means through which the EU and Iraq can work towards this end, focusing primarily on:
- the energy sector. EU action will support both the domestic and the regional framework. A secure regulatory and financial framework will encourage investment and help deter corruption, criminality and organised crime. The establishment of regional networks and technical dialogues for the development and export of oil and gas resources will foster regional cooperation;
- economic diversification and development of an attractive trade and investment regime. The negotiation of a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) that will bring Iraq closer to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the improvement of Iraqi access to the European market (generalised system of preferences), the engagement of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in Iraq, and Community assistance to consolidate the Iraqi Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance will back up this process.
An effective and transparent administrative framework
Iraq must push ahead with public administration reforms (judicial structures, human resources, sound financial management, etc.). A 'roadmap' based on realistic goals and benchmarks will help the Iraqi government fulfil its commitments to its international partners.
The EU is well placed to help implement these reforms through experience from the enlargement process and support for building capacity and institutions in other parts of the world. In this context, the negotiation of a TCA with Iraq will be an additional area in which the EU can make a contribution, both by spurring Iraq to establish a functioning administration to manage the implementation of the agreement and by providing a framework for setting up technical working groups to support the exchange of know-how and expertise.
The Commission's 2004 Communication entitled The European Union and Iraq: A Framework for Engagement and the accompanying letter signed by the Commissioner for External Relations and the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) set out a medium-term strategy for EU engagement with Iraq as a response to the formation of the new Iraqi Interim Government and the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1546.
This medium-term strategy was aimed chiefly at the development of a secure, stable and democratic Iraq, with a sustainable market economy, at peace with its neighbours and integrated into the international community. The EU's engagement has translated into:
- support for the political and constitutional process (provision of expertise and resources for the electoral process and the establishment of the rule of law) and stepped-up engagement with the Iraqi political leadership (EU-Iraq Joint Declaration on Political Dialogue signed on 21 September 2005 [PDF ], Troika visits, and the June 2005 EU-US sponsored international conference on Iraq in Brussels;
- strengthening bilateral relations with the opening of a European Commission delegation and an offer to start negotiations for a TCA;
- contributing to the international engagement with Iraq by providing substantial financial aid, notably through the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, and by maintaining close contact with other key international players committed to supporting Iraq.