Sunday

5th Dec 2021

US mocks European fury over Iraq reconstruction contracts

  • US President George Bush laughed off European legal threats (Photo: EU Commission)

The rhetoric was sharpened in the new transatlantic political and legal spat yesterday - just days after a trade war over steel was averted.

There was sharp criticism of the US government's decision to award lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts to only those countries with troops in the country from the European Commission and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

A spokesman for the European Commission said that contracts should be awarded on the basis of international law and World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. He added, "we don't need another trade conflict".

Mr Schröder said, after a meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "international law must apply here. It does not help to look backwards".

For his part, Mr Annan described the decision as "unfortunate". France, China and Russia also criticised the move.

Bush laughs off legal threats

But US President, George W Bush laughed off European threats of legal action. When asked about the comments, he joked, "international law? Well, I'd better call my lawyer".

The President strongly defended his decision, saying, "it's very simple: our people risked their lives, the people of the friendly coalition risked their lives and the contracts will reflect that".

However, he is keen to keep the "lines of communication open".

He telephoned the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to announce that he was sending a special envoy - James Baker - next week to discuss the restructuring of Iraqi debt.

Encouragement, not punishment

Washington says that the list of eligible countries is an encouragement to join the coalition, rather than as a retrospective punishment for countries who refused to join in the US-led assault on Iraq.

As for legal action under WTO rules, it is unclear how successful a European appeal might be. Experts pointed out yesterday that Iraq is not a member of the WTO and therefore any challenge would be difficult.

In addition, WTO rules do allow discrimination on the grounds of national security, which the US invoked yesterday when making the announcement.

The contracts are worth $18.6 billion.

European firms miss out in Iraq

The EU wants more information about a decision not to award opponents of the US led war against Iraq reconstruction contracts, Brussels is dangling the threat of legal action.

News in Brief

  1. Covid: Belgium might close schools and cultural activities
  2. EU consumers can sue Facebook, judge advised
  3. French centre-right tilts toward Pécresse
  4. EU urged to blacklist Israeli spyware firm
  5. Austria's ex-chancellor Kurz quits politics
  6. EU agency: Omicron to be over half of infections 'within months'
  7. New German restrictions target the unvaccinated
  8. EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Belgium tightens Covid rules as health system 'is cracking'
  2. EU and US tighten screw on Lukashenko
  3. Belgian impasse leaves asylum seekers on snowy streets
  4. EU 'missed chance' to set fossil-fuel subsidies deadline
  5. EU energy ministers clash amid gas price uncertainty
  6. ECJ told to dismiss Poland and Hungary rule-of-law challenge
  7. Covid: what Germany got right - and wrong
  8. Quick Take: Enrico Letta

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us