EU, Iran Relationship Warms Up

The Iran Task Force has three main duties. First, it will facilitate the implementation of the JCPOA. To this end, meetings will take place at the expert level to assist Mogherini in her role as coordinator of the joint commission overseeing the implementation of the deal. Second, it is to develop bilateral relations with Tehran. Since September, the union has, for instance, explored options for establishing a permanent diplomatic presence in Tehran, one of the few capitals in which the union does not yet have an embassy.

The third and final goal is to explore ways to build a more cooperative regional framework. Some of the possible areas of cooperation with Iran identified by EEAS officials are trade, drug trafficking, environmental issues, human rights, terrorism, aviation safety and instability in the Middle East. As part of the third goal, three meetings have taken place between Mogherini and Zarif in the past four months, during which time issues such as “the need to bring the war in Syria, which has caused so much suffering, to an end” have taken center stage.

The parties have also discussed the institutionalization of a dialogue at the deputy level between Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for European and American Affairs Majid Takht Ravanchi and Schmid. The first such meeting took place at Palais Coburg in the Austrian capital of Vienna on Dec. 6, while dialogue at the ministerial level will reprise once again in 2016.

It is evident that the announcement of the JCPOA played a crucial role in enabling the EU to exit its nuclear-exclusive engagement with Tehran and to take practical steps oriented toward the establishment of a bilateral dialogue on a wider range of issues of mutual concern. Though its establishment shows good premise, it remains to be seen whether the Iran Task Force will become a central actor in enhancing the union’s action on Iran-related matters.

Besides increasing the chances of successful implementation of the JCPOA over the agreement’s extensive time span, the intensification of official contacts between Iran and the EU, in terms of both quality and quantity, is likely to further strengthen mutual confidence and establish a framework to address more contentious issues in the long run.

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