23/04/18 | 15/11 (30/11/2015), EUROPE |

After a decade of negotiations, a historic deal was reached in July 2015 on Iran’s nuclear programme. The agreement will significantly affect the country and its role in the world. On 19th October the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee discussed with experts the EU’s strategy towards Iran. Although specialists pointed out the agreement could create opportunities for the EU, MEPs raised concerns about the country’s human rights record.

Over the past decade the EU and the UN were among those who imposed a series of sanctions on Iran, which included freezing the country’s assets as well as trade restrictions, such as bans on exporting arms to Iran or not allowing countries to import crude oil and gas from there. Under the agreement that was recently concluded these sanctions will be progressively lifted. The hearing on 20 October looked at the opportunities this creates for the EU and Iran as well as the strategy the EU should be following.

Opening the session committee vice-chair Ryszard Antoni Legutko, a Polish member of the ECR group, called the agreement a “great step forward” and stressed that lifting sanctions “opens up new opportunities for the Iranian economy”.

UK S&D member Richard Howitt, who is drafting an own initiative report on the EU’s strategy towards Iran after the nuclear agreement, said: “We must be realistic about our expectations, but there is a shared agenda and the fight against terrorism will be one of the issues, as will the fight against drug traffic”.

Dr Rouzbeh Parsi, director of the European Iran Research Group, called for dialogue: “The EU has the potential to become the most important trading partner and political interlocutor, if there are not enough red lines to kill off any discussion before it even have started”. He said any disagreement over Syria definitely had the potential to do that.

Human rights

Many MEPs voiced concerns over Iran’s human rights record. German Greens/EFA member  Klaus Buchner said: “Eighty per cent of executions in Iran are carried out for drug offenses. Is it possible to have this sort of cooperation given the current human rights situation?”.

MEPs also stressed the importance of building trust between the parties involved. French EPP member Michèle Alliot-Marie said: “How can we build trust despite what has happened in the past, despite the ballistic missile test?”.

The hearing was closed by committee chair Elmar Brok, a German member of the EPP group.//