Could you provide our readers with a brief background about your Mission’s history?
The KRG Mission to the EU was established in Brussels in 2000. The Mission’s main objective is to maintain and strengthen the political, economic, and cultural relations between the Kurdistan Region and the European Union institutions. The Mission is the official body representing the Presidency, the Government, and the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region on the European Union political arena. In this capacity and in accordance with the provided mandate, the Mission works to establish and maintain strong and consistent relations with the institutions of the European Union. The Mission also holds KRG representational mandate in the countries of Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg).

How much engagement is there at present between the KRG and the EU?
An important part of our work is to serve the European business community. We do so by informing them about the trade and investment opportunities in the Kurdistan Region or by facilitating trade missions from or to the Kurdistan region. Serving the Kurdish (and non-Kurdish) community in the European Union countries has been another important part of the work of our Mission. Through the years, our Mission has been providing consular services, such as Power of Attorneys and/or the acknowledgement of different sorts of certificates.

Which areas does your mission prioritize in terms of promoting the Kurdistan Region in the EU?
The KRG – EU Mission is mandated to establish and facilitate strong and consistent relations between the European Parliament and the Kurdistan Parliament. In doing so, the Mission will use existing and new channels. One important body in this regard is the European Parliament’s Office for the Promotion of Parliamentary Democracy. Through engagement and partnership with OPPD, the Mission will help to establish inter-parliamentary cooperation bodies between the European and the Kurdistan parliaments. The KRG – EU Mission is authorized to reach out to the business world. It can establish forms of cooperation and association with governmental departments responsible for trade and investment, (Governmental) trade agencies, Chambers of Commerce, multinationals, individual companies, and any other type of profit seeking entities. In doing so, the Mission is expected to work as a bridge, linking together foreign and domestic parties in either bilateral or multiparty settings. Moreover, the Mission holds the mandate to organize and facilitate business trips, business seminars, conferences, and events. The European Parliament (EP) is regarded as the most important venue for our mission. The EP is the EU’s most accessible institution in which the KRG has established contacts and relations.

What do you hope to see regarding bilateral relations between the EU and the Kurdistan Region in the medium term?
In the upcoming year we will work to establish a stronger relationship with European Commission. The current Commission’s position towards the KRG is not optimal. The Commission, under the pretext of protocol, prefers to deal primarily with Baghdad. However, as the KRG builds on its energy potential, the EU’s overall interest and the Commission’s attention to the KRG will likely increase accordingly.

The Mission could thus use the energy issue to lay a foundation for improved relations with the European Commission. We will therefore emphasize two primary arguments: Firstly, we intend to emphasize the strong geopolitical position of the Kurdistan Region, and the role of President Barzani in Iraq’s overall political process. Secondly, we intend to emphasize the KRG’s energy ambitions, and the potential role it could play in promoting for the energy security of the EU.

In the coming period, the Mission will identify and study the opportunities to approach the Directorate-General for Energy. Through this relationship, we hope to discuss the possibilities of establishing a future framework in which the relations between the European Union and the Kurdistan Region can be shaped.