The European Commission will undertake a first “technical assessment mission” in February to explore energy ties with Iran following the lifting of international sanctions, European Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said on Sunday (17 January).
Late on Saturday, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States lifted sanctions on Iran, opening the door to closer EU-Iran energy cooperation.
The EU executive is particularly keen to develop Iranian supplies as an alternative to Russia, whose powerful role as a source of around a third of EU oil and gas has divided the bloc.
“A first technical assessment mission in the field of energy to the country (Iran) will take place at the beginning of February,” Arias Canete said in a statement.
An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said around 15 EU officials would go on the initial four-day technical visit and after that, high-level Commission staff, possibly with a business delegation, would travel to Iran.
Arias Cañete said potential areas for cooperation included all areas of energy ? nuclear, oil, gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
In particular, he mentioned developing liquefied natural gas and also pipeline shipments through a route the European Union refers to as the “Southern Gas Corridor” to carry supplies into southern Europe as an alternative to Russian gas.
Since Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014, EU tensions over reliance on Russian energy have escalated.
German firms have joined a project to double the amount of Russian gas shipped directly to Germany, bypassing Urkaine, drawing fierce opposition from nations such as Poland.
The European Commission has prepared a ‘diplomatic energy action plan’ to diversify the EU’s natural gas supply sources, with plans for tapping Algeria’s huge unexploited reserves, and a comprehensive LNG strategy due in 2016.
The offensive is part of the Energy Union, a project which received political impetus following the conflict in Ukraine, exposing the EU’s dependence on Russian gas imports.
The Commission's energy diplomacy offensive received support from EU foreign affairs ministers. Meeting on 20 July, they welcomed the agreement reached with Iran over its nuclear programme, saying "work should continue to enhance existing and to establish new energy cooperation and dialogues with [...] key global and regional strategic partners and interlocutors," in line with "relevant foreign and external policy goals".