Friday, December 12, 2008
Iraq To Be Center Of New EU-Style Middle East Union Of Muslim Nations?
Iraq has unveiled plans for the creation of a regional economic and security union for the Middle East explicitly modelled on the European Union.
Official government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh announced the proposal on Tuesday in Washington at the Institute of Peace, a US government-linked think-tank, saying that talks on the plan with the country's neighbours were already underway.
Mr al-Dabbagh said there was "great interest" in the project, according to AFP.
Informal discussions on "Regional Economic Partnership" have reportedly been launched with Kuwait, Syria and Turkey, though not yet Iran. The aim would also to be to bring on board Jordan and Saudi Arabia and - in a subsequent phase - the Gulf states of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, but not Israel.
The proposed bloc would look to lower trade barriers and develop joint economic projects, as well as sharing water resources and electricity. Resolving border disputes and common perspectives on combating militant extremism would also be on the agenda.
Iraq's plan, a "vision" of Mr al-Dabbagh's government, would also aim to improve oil and gas transit and construct roads between the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.
"The new Iraq could convert the region into the EU model," the UK's Daily Telegraph quotes the Iraqi official as saying at the meeting. "Iraq is going to play a major stabilising factor," he added.
Iraq sees a "necessity for regional security and economic co-operation," Mr al-Dabbagh said.
The proposal is the latest in a long line of regional groupings modelled on the European Union.
The African Union, a confederation of 53 African states was established in 2002, growing out of the earlier Organisation of African Unity. The grouping is still at the very earliest stages of approaching anything like the EU's level of joint governance and integration.
The Union of South American Nations, or Unasur (Unasol in Portuguese and Unasul in Dutch) is an intergovernmental union founded in May this year and integrates two existing customs unions: Mercosur and the Andean Community. It too is still undergoing its birth pangs.