European diplomacy and Iran’s nuclear programme

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

European diplomacy regarding the ongoing conflict over Iran’s nuclear programme has evolved over the last five years, although it still lacks several important features necessary for success, writes Marco Overhaus in a July 2007 paper for Deutsche Aussenpolitik.

Overhaus claims that through the ‘EU-3’ of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the Union displays a distinctly unified position that “starkly contrasts” the “disunity” in Europe in the build-up to the US war in Iraq in 2003. 

Overhaus believes that European diplomats have “learned a lesson” from the Iraq situation – namely that international unity, and particularly Western unity, is a high value in itself. 

Additionally, Overhaus points out that as far as its outcome is concerned, European policy on Iran has not been successful. Despite the combined efforts of the EU-3 and the UN Security Council sanctions, he alleges that Iran has continued its uranium-based nuclear programme – according to expert information. 

Thus Overhaus claims that the Union is still a long way from realising its stated goal as outlined in a strategy paper on weapons of mass destruction in 2003 – to “prevent, deter, halt, and, where possible, eliminate proliferation concerns worldwide”. 

Overhaus outlines three main obstacles that the EU must overcome if it is to act as a successful intermediary between the main actors in the conflict – the US and Iranian governments: 

  • A lack of sufficient economic and political incentives in European hands.
  • The incompatible standpoints of the US, Iran and the EU-3 over the nuclear issue. 
  • The hardening of domestic policy in Iran. 

Overhaus concludes by suggesting three approaches that the EU might follow in attempting to find a solution: 

  • Push for more stringent UN sanctions against Iran. 
  • Invoke other issues in the negotiations, such as the overall security architecture of the Middle East, or wider issues concerning the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 
  • Push for the IAEA inspection regime in Iran to be strengthened. 

Subscribe to our newsletters