EU-Iraq Agreement: New Opportunities to Boost Democracy

MESOP / EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT 15.1.2013 – Iraq can enjoy new economic opportunities and receive a boost to its efforts to promote democracy and human rights in the country thanks to its first-ever framework agreement with the EU.That is the view of Italian Christian Democrat MEP Mario Mauro, who is responsible for steering the agreement through Parliament. He is recommending his fellow MEPs to approve the partnership and cooperation agreement at the vote on Thursday. We spoke to him about how the EU can help Iraq.

How can this deal help Iraq on its path to democracy, rule of law and effective protection of human rights? Clearly, Iraq is in trouble and the transition is far from finished. At this time we have to create concrete opportunities for their economy and society. Our intention is to strengthen the country’s economic infrastructure and to guarantee development and peace. At the same time we have to be very clear when talking about human rights violations, e.g. religious discrimination. There is a lot of tension between Sunnis and Shiites and there is also the particular case of Christians in the country. The dramatic situation in Syria is another element of instability because of the refugees coming to Iraq.We are very well aware of all this. But it is also important to underline that we are producing new opportunities for Iraqi people through money and the economic relationship. I suppose that is the best way to support democracy in Iraq. Our position is simple: we offer economic opportunities in exchange for human rights improvements. When could we expect major improvements in Iraq? – We are in the middle of a big discussion about the rule of law in Iraq. We have to support the dialogue and strengthen civil society in the country, ensuring that it is possible for parties to take part in the debate. I think it is very important at this moment to be open to all proposals and listen to what they have to say. We need to remember that in the past Europe needed a long transition too. After seventy years we have peace but every day we still ask for more clarity in our political project. It’s unrealistic to expect Iraqi people to be able to solve the situation in a few years. It’s a long process during which we can build a very strong friendship. I think this should be our goal.

Do you think Iraq is making any progress towards democracy?

I think so. People are concerned about the future and not thinking so much about the war. But Iraq is a country where exceptional interests come into play. We have to remember that Saudi Arabia, Iran and probably Turkey are interested in destabilising the country. So we need to stay near our Iraqi friends and foster dialogue in the country.