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The EU and the Challenge of Iraq

  • Felix Neugart
Publisher: Gulf Research Center
Date of Publication: Jan 2009
Publications Categories: GRC Event Papers


The paper tackles a number of important questions regarding the past and present of relations of members of the European Union (EU) regarding the U.S.-led war that toppled the regime of Saddam Hussain and the unfolding transition and reconstruction process in Iraq. This paper aims at providing some background on the role of the European Union and its member countries in this process and offers some recommendations for future EU engagement. The Iraq issue has been for a long time excluded from the operations of EU’s foreign policy approach and the community as such had never any contractual relations with Iraq. The topic was not among the community’s traditional areas of foreign policy, for it was regarded as being too divisive for a common position, and, in addition, being reserved for Britain’s and France’s privileged status as permanent members of the UN Security Council. The paper examines different European roles towards Iraq in pre and after war. When US pressure mounted to solve the Iraq problem by regime change, the tensions in the Security Council increasingly transmitted on the members of the European Union. The chances for consensus-building among the different actors were seriously damaged at an early stage when Britain and Spain fixed positions without even informing, let alone consulting their fellow partners in the EU. The paper argues that the nature of the Iraqi regime in the domestic and regional context supported the US position against the European opponents. The paper discusses the after math disagreement within the EU, which somewhat softened, but the different approaches of the British-Spanish camp on the one hand, and the Franco-German camp on the other, remained clearly discernable. The paper also touches very basic questions of the future make-up of the international system in general and the transatlantic relations in particular. This naturally involved a discussion of the nature of the transatlantic partnership and a vision of the role of the US and NATO for European and international security alike. In the same line the paper highlights the disputed points of view over reconstruction Iraq.

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