By John Lee.
The European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Monday backed a historic deal that establishes the first ever contractual relationship between the EU and Iraq. MEPs recommended that the full House endorse the partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) but listed concerns over human rights and political failings in Iraq and called for a stronger EU presence there.
The committee approved the agreement, signed by the EU and Iraq May 2012, by 47 votes to 0, with 2 abstentions. The PCA still needs to be backed by the full Parliament (probably in January 2013) and ratified by all the member states.
Concerns about continuing violence
In an accompanying, non-binding resolution passed by 49 votes to 0, with 2 abstentions, foreign affairs MEPs raise particular concerns over human rights violations still occurring in Iraq, affecting women and religious minorities, including Christians, in particular. They stress that the continuing acts of violence against civilians "instill in the population a deep sense of fear and uncertainty" and express concerns over sectarian violence and tense relations between the Iraqi government and the opposition.
Call for stronger EU presence
MEPs point out that the EU Delegation in Iraq is not fully operational, as it still lacks its own adequate premises and the Head of Delegation does not have the necessary security cover to travel to all parts of the country, in order to monitor the implementation of programmes financed by the European Union, the human rights situation and the reform process.
The partnership and cooperation agreement establishes a framework for deeper political and economic cooperation, counter-terrorism and the promotion of human rights. It includes basic trade cooperation rules to help Iraq on its way to eventual WTO accession, provisions on holding annual ministerial meetings to evaluate progress in peace, democracy and the rule of law, and a specific clause on cooperation to help Iraq accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
According to a report from UPI, the European Commission had said it committed $85.7 million to development cooperation in Iraq for a two-year period.
(Sources: EU, UPI)