The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the European Union yesterday that his nation is “open for business”.

Al-Maliki said that in return for opening its vast oil and gas reserves to investors, Iraq wants EU know-how to rebuild its tattered institutions and industrial base.

“We have come here to open the way — and pave the way — for a new relationship,” al-Maliki said. “As you know, Iraq is a rich country. We are not asking for direct assistance to Iraq in order to fund our projects. What we need is technical assistance” to help rebuild.

Al-Maliki’s sales pitch was warmly welcomed by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who, along with other EU officials, are keen to forge closer economic ties, especially in opening up Iraq’s energy reserves to European energy firms. It is hoped that Iraq will contribute to EU efforts to reduce dependence on energy supplies from Russia.

Out of the frying pan, and into the fire…