European Union External Action

Iran and the EU

06/05/2020 - 17:59
EU relations with Country

The conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015 - a crucial achievement of European diplomacy - has opened the way for a renewal of broader relations between the European Union (EU) and Iran.

The overarching objectives of EU-Iran relations, are based on the Joint Statement from 16 April 2016. Areas of cooperation with Iran include: economic cooperation, trade and investment, agriculture, transport, energy and climate change, civil nuclear cooperation, science, research and innovation, education, culture, environment, drugs, migration, humanitarian issues and regional issues.

Iran, Borrell, Zarif handshake

In February 2019 the Council of the EU adopted Conclusions on Iran outlining the EU’s common position on its relationship with Iran, the JCPOA, regional issues and human rights.

The EU supports a balanced, comprehensive approach with Iran, including dialogue, with a view to addressing all issues of concern, critical when there are divergences and cooperative when there is mutual interest.

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EU-Iran relations are coordinated at the level of the European Union by the EEAS Iran Task Force, which was established after the conclusion of the of the JCPOA in 2015 and which reports directly to the Secretary General of the EEAS.

The EU does not currently have a Delegation in Iran, It is therefore represented by the member state holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Currently the EU is represented by the Embassy of Croatia until 30 June 2020 followed by the Embassy of Germany until 31 December 2020.

The JCPOA, also known as the Iran Nuclear deal, is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231(2015).

The JCPOA ensures that Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful in return for the comprehensive lifting of UN, multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran's nuclear programme.

Since 2006, the EU High Representative played a decisive role by facilitating the diplomatic efforts between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Iran, that led to the conclusion of the JCPOA in Vienna on 14 July 2015.

EU High Representative/Vice President Mogherini announces the conclusion of the JCPOA with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif, July 2015
EU High Representative/Vice President Mogherini with E3+3 foreign ministers and Iranian FM Zarif after reaching the agreement, July 2015
EU High Representative/Vice President Ashton, with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif at the Iran talks in 2013
EU High Representative Solana at the Iran talks with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani in 2006

 

As coordinator of the Joint Commission, the High Representative leads the work to oversee implementation and preserve the JCPOA. The High Representative or his/her designated representative – the Secretary General of the EEAS – chairs the quarterly meetings of the Joint Commission.

The JCPOA is a robust verifiable agreement that sets a series of strict limitations on Iran's access to nuclear material and sensitive equipment. In addition, the agreement gives the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) unprecedented access to monitor and verify Iran's programme.

Regrettably, on 8 May 2018 the President of the United States announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Therefore, as of 9 May 2018, the United States does not participate in any JCPOA-related activities or meetings.

The EU and its Member States are committed to preserving the JCPOA.

The JCPOA was designed to block both Iran's uranium and plutonium paths to a nuclear weapon.

It increased Iran's breakout time from about 2 months (before the deal) to at least 1 year.

It established a robust verification regime, implemented by the IAEA, the only impartial and independent body, with sixty years of experience in implementing safeguards around the world.

It reduced Iran’s enrichment capacity by approximately 75%; it reduced the stockpile of enriched uranium by approximately 90%, and limited the level of uranium enrichment and the stockpile of enriched uranium Iran can possess.

It established that the nuclear facilities of Arak and Fordow are to be repurposed in a way that they would not be able to produce weapons-grade plutonium or highly enriched uranium respectively.

It created the Procurement Channel, a significant transparency and non-proliferation mechanism, which reviews transfers of sensitive nuclear-related items to Iran that ultimately require an approval by the UN Security Council.

The lifting of sanctions is an essential part of the JCPOA. The EU fulfilled all its legal obligations on 16 January 2016 (Implementation Day) when the EU legislative framework providing for the lifting of economic and financial nuclear-related sanctions entered into effect. On the same day UN financial nuclear-related sanctions and United States secondary nuclear-related sanctions were also lifted. Sanctions imposed by the EU in view of the human rights situation in Iran, support for terrorism and other grounds are not part of the JCPOA, and remain in place.

For an overview of all EU sanctions lifted and sanctions still in place you may consult the EU's JCPOA Information Note and the EU sanctions map.

Preserving the JCPOA is crucial not only in terms of nuclear non-proliferation but also for the security of the region and beyond.

Following the US decision to withdraw from the agreement in May 2018 and to re-impose previously lifted sanctions, the EU remained determined to continue pursuing legitimate trade with Iran. The EU updated its Blocking Statute, extended the EIB external lending mandate to make Iran eligible and provided comprehensive support to France, Germany and the UK (as core shareholders) to set up and fully operationalize INSTEX (Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges), a special purpose vehicle to facilitate legitimate trade between Europe and Iran. Six more European countries joined INSTEX as shareholders. EU welcomed the decision of six European countries to join Instex as shareholders and encourages further broadening of INSTEX shareholders’ basis. A first transaction was successfulluy concluded on March 2020.

The EU has continuously expressed deep regret at the US decision to withdraw from the agreement and re-imposition of sanctions. At the same time, the EU is also committed to maintaining cooperation with the United States, which remains a key partner and ally.

Since July 2019 Iran has taken different steps to reduce its nuclear commitments. The EU and its Member States have consistently urged Iran to reverse these steps and to refrain from further measures that undermine the nuclear deal.

Under the terms of the JCPOA, the Joint Commission – led by the High Representative or his representative the EEAS Secretary General – is the relevant forum for dialogue to address all issues of concern.

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