MEPs call for fresh efforts to foster EU-Iran relations
The EU should reset its relations with Iran through a “four Cs” dialogue: comprehensive, cooperative, critical and constructive, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Tuesday. MEPs advocate expanding trade with Iran, call for active EU diplomacy to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Riyadh and urge “an immediate moratorium on the carrying out of death sentences in Iran”.
“My report stands for peace, an active diplomatic role for Europe, and a belief that by identifying common interest where it exists, that it is possible to build on it,” said EP rapporteur Richard Howitt (S&D, UK).
“I support the opening of an EU delegation in Tehran and cooperation on maritime security in the Persian Gulf as a concrete step towards a new regional security structure for the whole region; setting the aim for a partnership and cooperation agreement for a bilateral investment treaty and of Iran joining the World Trade Organisation,” he added.
The resolution on EU strategy towards Iran notes that “the Iran nuclear deal was a notable achievement for multilateral diplomacy, and for European diplomacy in particular”. MEPs suggest advancing EU-Iran relations alongside the implementation of the recent nuclear deal, reiterating that any backsliding by Iran “can lead to the reintroduction of sanctions”.
The EU commitment to a renewed engagement with Iran should be based on comprehensive, cooperative, critical and constructive dialogue involving political, economic, academic, technical and people-to-people contacts, says the draft. It highlights some potential areas of EU-Iran cooperation, such as energy, transport or education.
MEPs support the expansion of the EU’s trading relations with Iran, which currently stand at about USD 8 billion, and believe it should aim towards making the EU Iran’s main trading partner. They welcome the positive results already brought by the nuclear deal: a 43% increase in trade between Iran and the EU during the first six months of 2016, around 30 Iranian banks reconnecting to SWIFT, and dropping inflation and interest rates.
However, MEPs consider the lack of freedom of expression online in Iran, the systematic surveillance of internet traffic and violations of people’s rights and freedoms to be obstacles to trade.
The resolution also supports Iran’s bid to join the World Trade Organisation and calls on the Commission “to use these negotiations as an opportunity to push for key labour rights reforms” in Iran.
Moratorium on death sentences
MEPs issue a reminder about the EU’s principled and long-standing opposition to the death penalty and call “for an immediate moratorium on the carrying out of death sentences in Iran”, which are mainly handed down for drug-related offences.
As a first step in addressing this question, MEPs call on the Members of the Iranian Parliament to abolish the death penalty for people under 18. They also note the draft Bill which, if approved in Iranian Parliament, would reduce the punishment for non-violent drug-related crimes from death to life imprisonment.
Iran and Saudi relations - key to regional stability
The worsening struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for political and religious influence, which affects the security situation in the Middle East and beyond, is of concern for MEPs. Therefore, they call for an active EU diplomacy to de-escalate tensions between Tehran and Riyadh, as their constructive cooperation is essential in “finding solutions to end armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen“.
The resolution on EU strategy towards Iran after the nuclear agreement was passed by 456 votes to 174, with 67 abstentions.