Brussels, 20 Jul – EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced the lifting of “multilateral and national” sanctions on Iran on 16 January this year, saying the nuclear deal showed that intense diplomacy could resolve even “the most difficult issues”. However, this new position came despite the EU sanctions still imposed on Tehran due to its poor human right record and links with terrorist organizations.
As the European Union now moves towards more business dealings with Iran, former Commissioners Karel de Gucht and Louis Michel have urged EU institutions and member states to make any dealings conditional upon Tehran improving its human rights record.
Michel, father of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, was European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid between 2004 and 2009. De Gucht was in charge of the trade portfolio between 2010 and 2014. Both men played an important role in forging the EU’s business relationships with other countries over the last decade.
On July 19, EurActive reports that a letter from De Gucht and Michel urged EU institutions and member states to prioritize progress on human rights over new deals with the regime, saying that the rate of executions in the country shows “a horrific image of the planned state killing machine”, as reported by Amnesty International in July 2015.
Reporters Jorge Valero and James Crisp say that the text stressed that Europe should condition “any further relations with Iran to a clear progress on human rights and a halt to executions”.
The letter goes on to criticize the Iranian regime’s close ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, and the discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, the repression of women, and the lack of guarantees for free and fair elections. “As the Iranian people and the opposition are not allowed to freely express their opinion inside Iran, we should not allow the regime’s repression inside the country to be extended to the European capitals.”
According to the report in EurActive, “The call will come as an embarrassment to the current European Commission. In April, the EU responded to the lifting of the economic and financial sanctions linked to Iran’s nuclear programme with a landmark visit to the country of eight Commissioners, led by foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.”
The nuclear agreement seemed to be good news for the international community. “We are turning the page”, Mogherini said during the visit last April. “As Europeans, we want the Iranian people to have and to see the benefits of this agreement turning into changes in their everyday lives”, she stressed. “I’m sure I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in the Commission but I dare to say that I speak on behalf on the 500 million Europeans that are supporting a new era in our relations.”
The intent of the visit was to build foundations and to facilitate cooperation. However, President Rouhani cancelled a visit to Vienna last April after the Austrian government refused to forbid a peaceful opposition rally during his visit.
“The Belgian initiative came against the backdrop of the “new era” in the bilateral relations that EU authorities and the capitals are trying to build with Tehran.” according to the report in EurActive.
In March, the UN highlighted a worsening situation citing the increase in executions and the “fundamental flaws” in the administration of justice.
The trip was “a very short visit” of one day with” a very specific purpose”, according to what an EU official told EurActive.