Bucharest has sent a delegation to Tehran to discuss business opportunities following the lifting of the Iranian embargo. But its representatives may find that the best parts of its energy sector have already been snapped up. EurActiv Romania reports.
Romania hopes to strengthen economic ties between itself and Iran, in a post-sanctions world. Bucharest believes that such a relationship could be developed effectively and yield tangible results in the petrol and gas sectors, said Aristotel Jude, state secretary at the Ministry of Energy, during a meeting with the Islamic republic’s Deputy Minister of Petroleum, Amir H. Zamaninia.
The two officials discussed the participation of Romanian companies, especially those already involved in the oil industry, investment opportunities and the involvement of Romanian experts in Iran’s oil-production development programmes, said a communication released by the Romanian energy ministry.
The delegation is also interested in identifying access routes for Iranian oil to reach the European market through Romania, with the aim of “ensuring the future development of the energy corridor from Iran to Europe”.
Following the lifting of the embargo in January, Iranian officials launched an aggressive strategy of developing an economy that had been hard hit by international sanctions. The country’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has visited several European nations, followed by an entourage of officials and businessmen. Contracts worth billions of euros have already been signed as a result.
Despite a history of good relations, Romania is relatively late to the negotiating table, as a number of other countries, such as Spain, have already seized their chance to rebuild ties with Iran. The delegation led by Minister for Foreign Affairs Lazăr Comănescu may find that there are only scraps left.
After a significant drop-off in bilateral trade in the 2012-2014 period, due to the EU-supported UN sanctions against Iran, trade bounced back last year and forecasters have predicted growth in 2016.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Energy, Romanian exports in 2015 totalled $157.9 million (€145.2 million) and imports reached $8.7 million (€8 million). Both figures were more than double what was recorded in 2014.
Romania could be seen as small-fry for Iran though, especially when compared to one of its largest trading partners, China. In 2014, trade between Tehran and Beijing exceeded $50 billion (€45.9 billion), which was a 31% increase on the previous year.
The election in 2013 of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, signalled a change in Iran's economic policy.
Talks with the P5+1 powers - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany - started in September 2013 and an interim agreement two months later gave Iran some sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, representing the six world powers, announced the lifting of “multilateral and national” sanctions in Vienna on 16 January, saying the nuclear deal showed that intense diplomacy could resolve even “the most difficult issues”.