This page was archived on October 2020.



41 - Iran

Grade: A-
Unity 4/5
Resources 5/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 16/20
Scorecard 2012: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: A (18/20)

Europeans have so far effectively safeguarded the diplomatic process under way in the Iranian nuclear talks and have begun repairing relations with Tehran. 

Europe’s overriding objective on Iran remains a comprehensive nuclear deal within the EU3+3 framework (the EU, Germany, France, the UK, China, Russia, and the US). To a lesser degree, Europeans endeavoured to explore openings for constructive regional discourse with Tehran. Nominal attempts were made to develop EU-Iran human rights dialogue. While Tehran and Washington led the nuclear negotiations, Europe guarded the diplomatic process and was instrumental to implementing the JPoA signed in 2013. With EC oversight, member states designated banks to carry out transactions providing Iran with access to frozen assets and humanitarian relief as prescribed by the JPoA. Despite competing commercial interests and new possibilities for trading with Iran under the JPoA, Europe stayed united on upholding the unilateral sanctions targeting Iran’s oil and banking sectors. Catherine Ashton chaired the EU3+3 effectively (and was asked to continue beyond her mandate),consulting non-E3 member states. But some non-E3 states are concerned that they bear the cost of sanctions, despite having little influence on negotiations. European companies also voiced discontent at the perceived discretionary application of US sanctions, undercutting European trade interests.

Europeans led an intensive effort to strengthen diplomatic relations with Tehran. More than 12 EU foreign ministers visited Iran, as well as Catherine Ashton and Norway’s foreign minister; the UK and Iran met at head-of-state level after 35 years; and parliamentary and exploratory trade delegation exchanges took place. For Europe, a final nuclear deal would have been preferable to extending the JPoA twice in a year, and in the latest phase, greater diplomatic pressure might have been brought to bear to match the economic weight of European sanctions. Nevertheless, the negotiations have contributed to the normalisation of EU-Iran relations. Regionally, Iran was placed in the spotlight by its  military pushback against ISIS and its acceptance of the removal of Nouri al-Maliki as Iraq’s prime minister. But meaningful dialogue between Europe and Iran on de-escalating regional conflicts remains on hold until the resolution of the nuclear issue.