As democracy spread to the rest of the region, 2011 raised questions about the future consolidation of democracy in Iraq and the role of the EU in it.
Europe wants to support Iraq’s stabilisation and development and its regional integration. Over the last few years, member states have reconciled their differences and the EU is now structuring its involvement in the country around a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) and a multiannual strategy. But broader co-operation has been delayed by Iraq’s fractious politics, preventing the full entry into force of the EU–Iraq PCA planned in 2011. Relations with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s new government have been relatively difficult. The EU was unable either to influence a resolution of the contentious problem of relocating Iranian dissidents located in Camp Ashraf in Diyala province or to agree on taking charge of the resettlement of Iranian refugees. It also failed to get a stronger commitment by Iraq to a solution to the Syrian crisis as Baghdad continued to offer Damascus support.
On the positive side, the EU prolonged until mid-2012 its rule of law training mission (EULEX) and has increased activities in the field and co-operation with the UN. European companies have further articulated their presence in the oil sector under the 2010 Memorandum of Understanding on Energy in view of increasing production capacities. Increasing oil revenues led to a cut in financial co-operation funding for the 2011–2013 period. The EU signed a €24 million capacity-building programme, which will partly use Iraqi resources, and it has committed a further €15.7 million on water management. Unfortunately, the EU’s development operations towards Iraq will be administered separately from those towards the Southern Neighbourhood, particularly from 2011, which risks increasing inconsistency and fragmentation. Overall, Europe is struggling to build up influence in Iraq as the US withdraws its troops and Iran consolidates its dominance in the country’s internal politics. Europe is paying the price for its loss of leverage towards Turkey. A comprehensive strategy towards the wider Middle East and the Gulf could link Iraq and the sub-region to the more structured policies in place around the Mediterranean.