22nd Feb 2019

Iran - Patten calls for "concrete improvements"

The EU has given its strongest indication to date that Iran's slow progress in improving human rights is jeopardising EU-Iran relations.

Speaking in Tehran on Wednesday, External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten has called on the Iran's leaders to make "concrete improvements on the ground."

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

"A definitive end to stoning practices, and the adoption of an anti-torture bill would be positive indicators" the Commissioner said while also welcoming Iran's invitation for UN human rights observers to come to the country.

Carrot and stick

The Commissioner reiterated that parallel negotiations in areas of trade, politics and counter-terrorism are "indissociable."

A Trade and Co-operation Agreement with the EU would alleviate some of the risks inherent in Iran's demographic make-up and insufficient levels of foreign direct investment argued the Commissioner.

Iran's population exploded after the Islamic revolution in 1979. The worry for the Commission is that political instability, inadequate economic performance and large numbers of young people being unemployed will result in dangerous social tensions.

The Commisison is promoting a trade agreement as one means of avoiding this. As an incentive to work toward an agreement the Commissioner offered EU backing for a potential membership bid for the World Trade Organisation. But the Commission will also need political movement to silence critics back home.

Members of the European Parliament have been extremely vocal in their criticism of the EU's policy and gave Iranian Foreign Minister Kemal Kharazzi a cold reception on a recent trip to Brussels.

NGOs are equally unhappy. In a letter to the UK foreign Minister Jack Straw, Hanny Megally, of Human Rights Watch said "Despite years of rhetoric about reform, recent developments in Iran are not at all positive... human rights progress in Iran is caught in a continuing power struggle between popularly elected reformers, who control both the presidency and parliament"

To put additional pressure on Tehran, Mr Patten cast doubt on the EU's support for Iran at the UN. A resolution is likely to be tabled condemning Iran's human rights record at an up-coming at the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Mr Patten said, "I cannot predict here the final EU position"

Not practical

Some commentators have flagged up practical problems with the Commission's approach. They argue that the three part dialogue is difficult because of the power struggle in Iranian politics and because few are committed to wholesale reform.

Consultant Bijan Khajehpour wrote in a recent article for the Middle East Report: "The factions favouring political liberalisation are at odds with economic liberalisation." President Khatami is a moderate member of this group according to Mr Khajehpour.

On the other hand there is a "faction that promotes privatisation and free-market economics is distant from views such as political pluralism" he writes.

- While in Iran Mr Patten reaffirmed his invitation to President Mohammed Khatami to visit Brussels.

Patten defends EU-Iran dialogue

The external relations Commissioner Chris Patten has strongly defended the EU's ongoing dialogue with Iran in the face of objections from MEPs and Iranian opposition parties.

EU turns up heat on Burmese junta

Unhappy with poor human rights in Myanmar (Burma), EU foreign ministers have decided to ramp up the pressure on the ruling military junta, by threatening to extend and expand existing sanctions

News in Brief

  1. Juncker pledges climate action alongside Swedish activist
  2. Swedbank brings in external help on money laundering revelations
  3. No-deal Brexit danger 'very serious', Corbyn says after Brussels meeting
  4. Tusk to back pro-EU candidates in Polish EP vote
  5. Germany rejects UK appeal on Saudi arms sales
  6. French senators decry 'dysfunction' on Macron security aide affair
  7. France to ban far-right groups over antisemitism
  8. Swedish climate activist to face Juncker in Brussels

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. Microsoft warns EU on election hack threat
  2. Brexit talks to continue after May-Juncker meeting
  3. Trump and Kurz: not best friends, after all
  4. EU commission appeals Dieselgate ruling
  5. 'No burning crisis' on migrant arrivals, EU agency says
  6. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  7. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  8. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us