Iran Deal: the ambitious role of the EU

The framework deal over the Iranian nuclear resources is the result of the joint effort of several international actors. Among them, the EU has been able to exploit the situation to give more legitimation to its role as an international actor

Negotiations_about_Iranian_Nuclear_Program_-_the_Ministers_of_Foreign_Affairs_and_Other_Officials_of_the_P5+1_and_Ministers_of_Foreign_Affairs_of_Iran_and_EU_in_LausanneAfter the historic deal of April 2nd had been signed, the international eye has maintained its focus on the US and Iran as the main actors of the détente. “Other world powers” were part of the negotiations too. This attention is in some way justified, as Obama is the first US President who opened so much to the usually mistrusted Iran. Secondly, the future of the deal stays in Washington, since the Congress maintains the prerogative of final decision over it.

Despite this, other key actors have given their precious contribution in shaping the framework deal, and without their input the negotiations would probably not even have started. The E3, namely the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and the UK, framed by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini have taken up the primordial initiative, by boosting the process. Thus, beyond the technical details of the framework, it is interesting to look at the role the EU played in this game, by empowering its international attitude.

EU-Iran relations saw a first incentive in the 1990s, when the first political and commercial consultations were established. In the next decade, the two actors deepened the negotiations for a comprehensive Trade and Co-operation Agreement and a Political Agreement. Thereupon, the EU looked at Iran’s reserves of gas, in the occasion of the recent Ukrainian crisis that put under peril the Russian supplies of gas to Europe. Iran is also an important commercial partner and one of the balancers of the equilibrium in the chaotic Middle East. As a consequence, the EU considers Iran when defining its foreign policy strategy, particularly for the crises in Syria and Yemen and the fight against the Islamic State.

Considering these elements, it gathers that the EU needs and gains advantages from the easing of tensions with Iran. When, in 2002-2003, the Iranian nuclear programme was disclosed, the EU took the initiative in dealing with the issue, by using exclusively a diplomatic approach, and avoiding any military intervention. In June 2003 the drafting of the European Security Strategy (ESS) and the EU Strategy against Proliferation of WMD were launched. In December 2003, EU established the basis for EU non-proliferation efforts to Iran. Over the next years, the EU has been able to maintain the diplomatic imperative, by performing with ambition and high-profile.

The engagement has only been barely notched by the decisive changes that occurred: Obama’s election (2008) changed the role of the US as part of the talks; the application of the Lisbon Treaty (2009) modified the EU pillars in relation to the CFSP; the Iranian presidential elections (2009) deteriorated the relations with society; the “Arab Spring” broke the region up; the follow up of the uprisings still tightens the region in the grip. Nevertheless, the EU has invested both political energy and economic resources to contribute to foster the success of the comprehensive, negotiated settlement over the Iranian nuclear programme, by reinforcing the international confidence over both Iran and its unexpected collaboration and the EU itself as an active foreign actor.

Giulia Formichetti

Pubblicato il 30 aprile 2015

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