Mr Barzani was congratulated on making Iraqi Kurdistan the "most stable area in Iraq", by Foreign Affairs Committee Vice Chair, Fiorello Provera (EFD, IT), Tunne Kelam (EPP, ET) and Ana Gomes (S&D, PT), at Tuesday’s  joint meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee and of the EP delegation for relations with Iraq>Kurdistan "is new in the democratic process", said Mr Barzani, who was re-elected in July 2009, asking MEPs’ support for its efforts to set up an administration and an educational system "to be as close as possible to your standards". He also invited EU companies to invest in his region.

January 2010 elections

"The forthcoming elections are important from an EU perspective", remarked Struan Stevenson (ECR, UK), Chair of the EP delegation for Iraq. He stressed "the absolute importance of giving a voice to Iraqi expatriates", so they can take part in January’s vote. There are approximately 1.5 million refugees in neighbouring Middle East countries.Polling stations should be made available in Yemen, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Libya. "For the last elections, only three polling stations were available only in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria", noted Mr Stevenson."There will be polling stations outside Iraq where more 20,000 refugees are present", replied Mr Barzani.Iraqi MPs recently endorsed a Kurdish proposal to use current voters’ lists in next year’s polls. For the first time since 2005, elections will be held in Kirkuk, as in any other governorate. Kurds in Iraq opposed giving the governorate a special status.

Relations with Turkey

Mr Barzani’s government is "fully supportive" of Ankara’s policy on the Kurdish issue, he said in reply to a question from Chair of the EP delegation for Turkey Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR). "If Ankara fully understands this issue, there will have no reason for armed resistance", he added.

Oil supplies

Ana Gomes (S&D, PT), Parliament’s rapporteur on Iraq for the past legislature, asked the President about linking pipelines in northern Iraq to the Nabucco pipeline. "Linking the Iraqi pipeline to the Nabucco would enable Kurdistan to play a major role in the region", claimed Mr Barzani.MEPs also raised the issue of Kirkuk, Iraq’s biggest oil-producing city, which is claimed by Kurds as a Kurdish populated city. "Kurds were evicted out of Kirkuk and became refugees in their own country. Kirkuk has become a symbol of oppression. Oil is not the reason why we are fighting for Kurdistan", said Mr Barzani.On the oil and gas law governing contracts with oil companies, currently blocked in Parliament, and the revenue bill, Mr Barzani said that the "current 17% of national proceeds from the sale of Iraqi oil should go back directly to the Iraqi Kurdistan region and not be paid via the federal authorities".  

Minority rights and honour killingsMEPs also asked the President about the protection of minorities in his region, which includes Assyrian, Turkmen and Christian minorities. "All rights have been granted to these minorities, who also take part in local governments", he replied, adding that minorities are "free to practice their language at school".

On honour killings, Mr Barzani answered questions from Ana Gomes and Ulrike Lunacek (Greens/EFA, AT), saying that this "negative culture should be put to an end", although "it may take time some time to do away with it, as it is firmly rooted in the local culture".

External relations – 10-11-2009