Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission on 11 May 2012 signed the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the Foreign Minister of Iraq Hoshyar Zebari. The Foreign Affairs Committee approved on Monday the historic agreement, by 47 votes to 0, with 2 abstentions.
The PCA is the first ever framework agreement between the EU and Iraq. Concretely, it establishes a platform for cooperation and action in a wide range of areas: countering terrorism, promoting human rights and enhancing trade and investments. Catherine Ashton, following the signature of the agreement, has stressed that “we are also committed to boosting trade and investment between the EU and Iraq. Economics meets politics: increased trade and investment will be crucial to back the work on the political front to support Iraq’s transformation into a stable and prosperous democratic nation”. The PCA still needs to be approved by the full Parliament and be accepted by all the member states.
The Foreign Affairs MEPs expressed their concerns over human rights violations in Iraq. Women and religious minorities are suffering from discrimination. The continuing acts of violence against people instill in the population fear and uncertainty. The sectarian violence and tense relations between the Iraqi government and the opposition threatens country’s route to democracy.
MEPs called for stronger EU presence in Iraq. They said that the EU Delegation in Iraq is not fully operational. The lack of security does not permit the Head of Delegation to travel to all parts of the country in order to observe and monitor the implementation of programmes financed by the European Union, the human rights situation and the reform process.