Iraqi officials praised the efforts of the Ministry of Planning Tuesday (November 29th) to reinforce co-operation with the European Union (EU) on a number development projects.
Last week, the Ministry of Planning concluded a bilateral co-operation agreement with the European Commission, a division within the EU.
"The agreement falls within the framework of the strategic partnership between us and the European Commission, and what this partnership expresses in terms of continuing desire to build and consolidate active, strong bilateral relations in all fields," said Sami Matti, deputy minister for technical affairs at the Ministry of Planning.
Matti told Mawtani the European Commission played a major role during past years in helping Iraq develop its resources and capacities by providing financial support and preparing the necessary expertise for development.
"We want to continue to develop this role during the coming phase through the conclusion of further agreements that would help develop our country and establish an exceptional status for it among the countries of the world," Matti said.
The agreement will go into effect at the beginning of 2012 and continue through 2015. Under the agreement, the European Union will provide a grant of €24 million ($32.3 million) to Iraq.
According to Matti, about €11 million ($14.8 million) will be allocated for health and higher education. Another €6 million ($8.1 million) will go towards creating a suitable environment for displaced Iraqi and refugees returning to the country. Another €5 million ($6.7 million) will be allocated to develop civil society organizations in Iraq. The remaining €2 million ($2.7 million) will go towards investment and economic projects.
Anwar Jameel, director-general of the Ministry of Planning's sector planning department, said the agreement also stipulates that the EU mission in Iraq would provide the necessary skills and expertise to implement these developmental projects.
"We aspire under this new agreement to expand the scope of the European Union contribution in developmental projects in Iraq, and open wide horizons for joint co-operation with the European Union, especially since our country is heading toward changes and a comprehensive economic boom and building," Jameel said.
Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi, official spokesman for the Ministry of Planning, told Mawtani that the agreement would be beneficial for both Iraq and the European Union.
"The countries of the Union look at Iraq as a promising economic and investment partner in the region in light of the huge natural and human wealth it has. They are consequently interested and keen to establish advanced and mature relations with it, based on mutual benefits and interests," he said.
"For our part, we also share Europe's concern and interest, and look forward to having them establish wider presence in the campaign for building and reconstruction going on in our country now, supporting us with what they have of capacities, expertise and well-established experiences."
Al-Hindawi also predicted a rise in national development indicators in Iraq during the coming year. The government has earmarked about $112 billion to finance investment projects and support the strategic plans and policies to fight poverty and unemployment.
"The ministry has relied on various internationally recognized parameters in preparing the draft budget of 2012, including taking into consideration each province's needs for service and development projects, and the determination of the budget relative to the number of the population, in addition to benefiting from the experiences and expertise of the developed countries in the area of managing financial assets and revenues," al-Hindawi said.