Monday

23rd Oct 2017

EU visit to Iran designed to reassure banks

  • Mogherini represented the EU at international talks on Iran's nuclear programme (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

A high-level EU delegation will visit Iran to reassure international banks on doing business with the Islamic Republic, but officials say they will not have time to meet human rights activists.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will lead a delegation on Saturday and Sunday (16-17 April), which will also include seven EU commissioners dealing primarily with energy, trade and industry.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Renzi (r) met Rohani in Iran earlier this week (Photo: Iranian presidency)

It forms part of a detente following Iran’s implementation of the nuclear non-proliferation deal.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi visited Iran earlier this week with a group of 60 business chiefs to sign a series of deals in the oil, gas and transport sectors worth at least €7 billion.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also visited Paris and Rome in January. He signed commercial accords worth up to €15 billion on the French leg of the trip.

A senior EU official said on Wednesday that the sheer number of commissioners “is to give a coherent and unified message” of re-engagement.

The official said the trip was designed to “reassure everyone that re-engaging in Iran is possible”.

She said international banks, whose services will be needed to underpin future foreign investment, have been reluctant to return to Iran due to legal and reputational concerns associated with the intricate web of EU and US sanctions imposed in recent years.

The sanctions are being phased out, but some of them, such as an arms embargo linked to Iran’s ballistic missile programme and blacklists linked to human rights abuses are to stay in place.

Ahead of Mogherini's visit, EU states extended a visa ban and asset freeze for a year on 82 Iranian security and judicial chiefs linked to internal repression.

“Thirty three [Iranian banks] have reconnected to Swift so far,” the EU official said, referring to a Belgium-based firm which handles international wire transfers.

“Major banks have not been re-engaging [with Iran], it takes to time to rebuild trust and confidence.”

The Belgian KBC bank, Germany’s DZ bank and Austria’s Erste Group are among the international financiers that have resumed ties. But prior to the detente, US regulators had fined French bank BNP Paribas $9 billion for sanctions-busting.

“They’ve been told Iran is … dangerous to do business with. The European banks are afraid for the same reason,” Iranian businessman Asadollah Asgharoladi told the state run ISNA news agency after meeting a group of Hong Kong-based lenders on 6 April.

The EU official added that “Iran wants to join the WTO [World Trade Organisation] and we are willing to play a supporting role”.

She said the wanted more action “on money laundering and financing of terrorism - a law has been passed in Iran but more needs to be done, because it's an impediment to investors’ engagement”.

With Iran sitting on huge gas reserves that the EU could tap into in order to reduce dependence on Russia, the official said “oil and gas are obvious areas of cooperation”.

She added that the EU had also drawn up a €5 billion plan for modernising Iran’s civilian nuclear energy programme and that it would target other opportunities in Iran’s aviation and rail sectors.

Iran is currently fighting on the side of Russia and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in the Syria war.

The EU had previously said that Assad, whose massacres of civilians have prompted huge refugee flows to Europe, must go for the sake of peace.

But Russia’s bombing campaign has made this less likely, while the rise of jihadist group Islamic State in Syria has made Western powers more open to keeping him or his rump state in place for the sake of stability.

The EU official noted that “we have tried to engage Iran when it comes to facilitating humanitarian access [in Syria] - it is not easy”.

She said that Iran was a source and a transit country for refugees because it hosts up to 3 million people who fled Afghanistan.

A previous visit to Iran by Mogherini’s predecessor Catherine Ashton in 2014 prompted anger by Iranian hardliners when she met women’s rights activists at the Austrian embassy in Tehran.

Short visit

The EU official said that this time there would be “no meeting with civil society because it's a very short visit”.

The EU statement on the Iran blacklist noted that it was guilty of “grave human rights violations”.

MEPs and NGOs, such as FIDH and DHRC, wrote to Mogherini ahead of the visit to urge her to pay more attention to the issue.

The FIDH and DHRC noted that despite Rouhani’s reputation as a moderate, the number of executions a year under his watch, including executions of juveniles, has risen to heights not seen since 1989.

They said there are “at least 1,000” people in prison “for purely political reasons or for their human rights activities”. It said dozens of Baha’i followers and Christians were also in prison “solely for their beliefs”.

EU explores business deals in Iran

The lifting of sanctions against Iran after it complied with an international nuclear deal could open oil, gas, and industrial markets for EU companies.

Greek PM strenghtens ties with Iran

Alexis Tsipras was the first EU leader to go to Tehran since the embargo was lifted. He said Iran had a role to play in "stabilising the region".

EU in diplomatic push to save Iran deal

EU leaders mobilise to stop Trump's attack on Iran deal, as Congress prepares knife-edge vote with implications for trans-Atantic ties and Middle East stability.

EU circles the wagons around Iran deal

EU diplomacy chief Mogherini to fly to Washington next month, after ministers unite in support of Iran nuclear deal at Luxembourg meeting.

Investigation

The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals

Klaus Mangold, a German businessman with good connections in Russia, and who provided a jet for Commission vice-president Guenther Oettinger, played a crucial role in Hungary's controversial Paks nuclear deal with Russia, Direkt36's investigation has found.

Macron puts trade policy on summit table

France's president wants a "political discussion" on EU trade policies at Thursday's summit, amid domestic concerns over Canada and South America deals. But his colleagues are likely to avoid a lengthy debate.

News in Brief

  1. May: EU member states will not lose out with Brexit
  2. Slovakia pledges to be 'pro-European' oasis in region
  3. Report: Catalan leader to address Spanish senate
  4. Fiat-Chrysler 'obstructed justice' reports Le Monde
  5. EU presidency 'confident' on posted workers agreement
  6. Young conservatives boot out Erdogan's party
  7. Tsipras urged to let refugees go before winter sets in
  8. Thousands demand justice in Malta

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreI Say Europe, You Say...? Interview With EU Commission VP Jyrki Katainen
  2. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  4. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  5. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  6. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  7. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  10. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  11. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  12. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe

Latest News

  1. EU commission denies May 'begged for help' comments
  2. Interpol needs EU help to stop abuse
  3. Glyphosate protesters hold meeting with Commission
  4. Catalan MPs weigh independence declaration
  5. Russia used Interpol 'loophole' against EU activist
  6. Italian regions demand autonomy from Rome
  7. Populist victory puts Czech EU policy in doubt
  8. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  2. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  3. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  5. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  6. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  7. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  8. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  9. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation