Wednesday

25th May 2022

EU members want more openness from Solana on Iran

A number of EU member states are growing impatient with the secretive handling of the Iran issue by foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the EU's "big three," with most foreign ministers not having seen a key Iranian paper at a meeting in Finland.

The Iran nuclear dispute dominated the second day of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Finland on Saturday (2 September) and saw ministers agree to mandate Mr Solana to seek further "clarifications" from Tehran despite its failure to meet Thursday's UN deadline to suspend uranium enrichment.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But 22 out of the 25 ministers were not allowed to see a "top secret" 21-page report which Tehran produced last week explaining its position – a document only seen by Mr Solana and the so-called EU-3 countries the UK, France and Germany.

The EU-3 and Mr Solana handle the thorny Iranian nuclear file on behalf of the bloc's 25 member states, with Tehran requesting maximum confidentiality.

The "big three plus Solana" construction used by the EU in the Iran dispute is seen by many experts and diplomats as having produced a rare success story for EU foreign policy.

Not only has the EU so far largely spoken with one voice on Iran – as opposed to for example on the Middle East – but the bloc has also taken up a leading international role on the issue, with UN veto powers, the US, Russia and China, allowing Mr Solana to talk to Tehran on their behalf.

Unity has a price

But the EU's unity and assertiveness on Iran has a price it emerged over this Finnish meeting.

Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot said that "a couple of countries" - including the Netherlands – have demanded to know what is in the Iranian document before 15 September, when foreign ministers meet in formal session to discuss Iran.

"You can only make decisions when you know what you should take decisions on," he said.

"We have said that when we want to decide, we should know what is in the document."

"There is an answer from Iran, but only the EU 3 and Solana know that answer," said Mr Bot adding however that he had "full confidence" in Mr Solana.

Italian foreign minister Massimo D'Alema said, without complaining about the matter directly, "We don't have the Iranian document. It is confidential, so in a certain way this mandate [to Mr Solana] is based on good faith. He has the document, [member states] don't have it."

Italy, Iran's biggest trading partner in the EU, is said to be one of the member states that is uneasy with the way it is being kept out of the talks.

"Several member states want a fuller briefing on Iran," said one source close to the EU-Iran talks adding that the "big three" are being perceived by some capitals as a "quasi directorate" in EU foreign policy.

Little appetite for sanctions

The fresh mandate that Mr Solana received on Saturday consists of holding face-to-face talks with Tehran's top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani at the beginning of next week - also on behalf of the US, China and Russia.

The EU's top diplomat will seek clarifications on the secret Iranian document which is "long, repetitive, and sometimes contradictory," according to one EU diplomat.

Only after the Solana-Larijani talks will the UN veto powers consider sanctions against Iran, but most EU ministers at the meeting showed little appetite for the idea.

Spain's foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos stated "for the moment we should keep talking."

Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed that "the most important thing is that the international community does not let itself be divided," with Russia and China disliking the sanctions option.

Also stressing international unity, Danish foreign minister Per Stig Moller said however that if Iran continues to be defiant, "we could impose sanctions" under UN Security Council resolution 1696.

International powers suspect that with Iran's uranium enrichment scheme is aimed at developing nuclear weapons, something which Tehran has denied.

France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub

Last-minute Israeli blacklistings and red lines have prompted MEPs to call off an official trip, posing the question if Israel can belittle the EU Parliament with impunity.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.

EU plans to jointly invest in defence capabilities

EU countries need to refill stockpiles after several member states supplied weapons to Ukraine in its fight with Russia, and to phase out existing Soviet-era weapons systems, and reinforce air defence.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us