Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Sweden protests innocence on EU-Iran sanctions

  • Bildt (l) shares a joke with the German foreign minister in Luxembourg on Monday (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Sweden has denied diluting EU sanctions on Iran. But fellow EU diplomats say it did.

Walking into an EU meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (15 October), Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt attacked Israeli media reports that he lobbied to change the EU measures in order to protect Swedish phone firm Ericsson.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"Something fed by the Irsaeli foreign ministry you mean? ... It is anonymous slander. They [the news reports] refer amusingly to anonymous Israeli officials. I don't think anonymous slander is the way that we should conduct relations between responsible countries," he told press.

His ministry in Stockholm the same day summoned the Israeli ambassador to Sweden to make an official complaint.

The EU unveiled its latest sanctions on Monday afternoon.

They include a ban on imports of Iranian gas and transactions between EU and Iranian banks unless pre-approved by national authorities.

They also forbid EU countries from issuing flags for Iranian cargo ships and from doing business with 34 entities which give "substantial financial support to the Iranian government."

EU diplomatic contacts told EUobserver the original proposals also contained a ban on sales of telecommunications equipment, but Sweden lobbied to drop it on "humanitarian" grounds.

"There's an Iranian minority living in Sweden and [Sweden] said it is important than they can keep in touch with their families back home ... It's normal that EU countries defend the interests of their national companies. Ericsson was never mentioned. The official reason for inclusion or non-inclusion of specific goods on a list is always 'not to hurt ordinary people'," one EU source said.

"There was a Swedish objection to this [the telecommunications ban]," another EU contact noted.

For its part, Ericsson confirmed it has contracts to ship and install mobile phone masts for three Iranian firms: MCCI, MTN IranCell and TCI.

"There are 70 million Iranians who need to talk to each other and to make phonecalls to the outside world and that is good for openness and democracy," a company spokesman, Fredrik Hallstan, told this website.

MCCI, MTN IranCell and TCI are all majority-owned by the Iranian state.

When asked if the Ericsson equipment could be used to snoop on people, Hallstan answered: "We don't sell surveillance equipment [to Iran]. We sell standard equipment for mobile telephony. If I call you, then the radio station knows where you are, so Yes, you can use it to locate people. But there is equipment out there which is much better for that kind of thing and we are not selling it."

In terms of EU efforts to stop "substantial financial support to the Iranian government," one Iranian opposition group says new structures designed to skirt EU and US sanctions are springing up like mushrooms after the rain.

The People's Mojahedin Oraganisation of Iran in a report drafted for EUobserver listed five institutions.

It said the Iranian President's Center for Innovation and Technology Co-operation, the foreign ministry's Department of Technical Co-operation, the defence ministry's Oil Pension Fund Investment Company, Bank Melat and Bank Saman are all involved.

It noted that methods include sending up to $100,000 in diplomatic pouches to Austria, Germany and Italy in order to bribe people.

Methods also include using Chinese, Russian and Turkish-owned front companies in Asia, Europe and the Middle East to transfer payments of up to $5 million at a time on behalf of Iranian entities which cannot do it directly because of the international crackdown.

Question marks over EU sanctions on Iran

Greece is temporarily blocking an EU gas embargo on Iran. But the big question is: are EU sanctions hurting or helping Iranian leader Ali Khamenei?

News in Brief

  1. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  2. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  3. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  4. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  5. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  6. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  7. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  8. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'

Analysis

China's 2019 growth outlook

As China's growth seems to be slowing, some observers see the country amid what the New York Times called a "severe downturn". As they mistake China's secular deceleration with cyclical fluctuations, they miss the rapid increase in Chinese living standards.

Opinion

The Azov crisis will backfire

Vladimir Putin's nightmare of Petro Poroshenko's re-election will be even certain as Ukrainians rally around the flag. Next March's election is not just to elect a new president but also a commander-in-chief to deal with five more years of Putin.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  2. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  3. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  4. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  5. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment
  6. Trump's wall vs Europe's sea
  7. Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret
  8. Germany scorns 'unusual' US threat on Russia pipeline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us