EU and Iran: More Opportunities for More Cooperation

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Azadeh Taheri
Expert on European Affairs

The fresh round of high-level talks between Iran and the EU resumed in Tehran on Feb. 8, the two-day meeting was held at the level of deputy foreign ministers. It was the first time that this kind of high-level negotiations between Iran and the EU was held after Tehran and the P5+1 group of countries started implementation of the nuclear agreement. The talks are planned to be held every six months in Tehran and Brussels.

These talks cover a wide range of issues, including the Iran - EU relations in the fields of energy, trade, financial and banking cooperation, the environment and the fight against narcotics.

After the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) went into effect and all nuclear-related sanctions against Iran were lifted, Tehran and EU are trying to open new areas of cooperation. As a matter of fact, both sides have a great potentiality to expand their cooperation.

Economy cooperation is attractive for both Iran and EU. Iran has a big and growing market and can be one of the best destinations for European producers and investors. Following the historic nuclear agreement, Iran is also using the event to unveil its post-sanctions projects and plans and as it has not the sufficient resources to develop these plans, foreign investment is welcomed.

Besides trade and economic relation, energy is another catalyst for promotion of relations, especially when EU embrace of Ukraine fuels tensions with Russia. 

Tehran is planning to resume oil deliveries to Europe. According to the country’s oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, Iran plans to sell 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day to European customers now that Western sanctions have been lifted. European energy companies are very interested to cooperate with Iran. Glencore in Switzerland has become the first Western company to deal in Iranian crude, Iran has also agreed on a deal with France’s Total. 

Dealing with Terrorism, Extremism and refugee crisis, can also be an important milestone for expansion of Iran-EU relation. Although Iran and EU are not on the same page on these issues, but there are some common points that can help managing differences and redefining common interests.

Before the nuclear tension, Iran and EU has good and acceptable relations, EU was one of Iran's big trade partners and both sides were trying to promote political relation. So it seems after decade of cold relations, Iran and EU have the potential to cooperate based on their common interests.  

Some believes that the nuclear agreement can herald some wider, more fundamental shift in power relationships in the region and Iran should be treated as a serious interlocutor and player.

In this kind of reversal of alliance, EU should engage with Iran in a comprehensive dialogue.

The Geneva negotiations on the future of Syria and the UN-organized negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen are cases where Iran and EU could have more cooperation through negotiation. 

But it would not be easy for sure. Besides differences and even conflict of interests, EU and Iran closer cooperation, have big enemies in the Middle East. Any kind of reversal of alliance in the region would encourage more agitation among old partners in the region, like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

They are far from accepting new role for Iran and can pose a great threat to any kind of closer relation between Iran and the west.

However, defeating ISIS and ending instability in the Middle East that now troubles Europeans, needs an overall regional framework for security and cooperation and in this new framework, Iran should have new and more effective role.

Key WordsEU, Iran, Opportunities, Cooperation, P5+1, Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA), ISIS, Instability, Middle East, Security, Cooperation, Taheri

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