The Iranian authorities have refused to give permission to a delegation of five MEPs set to travel to Tehran to meet with this year's Sakharov Prize winners Nasrin Sotoudeh and Jafar Panahi, after which the delegation cancelled the visit.
The delegation, led by Tarja Cronberg (Greens/EFA, FI) and including Cornelia Ernst (GUE, DE), Joseph Weidenholzer (S&D, AT), Isabelle Durant (Greens/EFA, BE and Juan Fernanco Lopez Aguilar (S&D, ES), was to meet their counterparts in the Majlis (Iranian parliament) as well as representatives of the civil society from 27 October to 2 November. On Friday, the Conference of Presidents (the Parliament President and political group leaders) unanimously awarded this year's Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought to Sotoudeh and Panahi and decided that the delegation travelling to Tehran should be able to hand-deliver the invitation to collect the prize in Strasbourg in December, or cancel the visit.
Mid-morning, Saturday 27 October, Tarja Cronberg, who chairs the EP delegation for relations with Iran, received a call from the Iranian ambassador to the EU, who said that "at such short notice" it was impossible to guarantee that the MEPs could personally deliver invitation letters to the Sakharov prize laureates.
Therefore, the chair of the delegation Tarja Cronberg cancelled the visit of the delegation, which had been seen as an opportunity to reopen a dialogue with the Iranian Majlis and civil society in Iran. The decision was taken in full agreement with Parliament President Martin Schulz, who
commented: "I deeply regret that permission to meet the Sakharov laureates was withheld. The European Parliament is nevertheless determined to continue its support for and involvement with the Iranian civil society."