Former European Commissioners Karel de Gucht and Louis Michel have criticised European Union moves to strike business deals with the Iranian regime, urging EU institutions and member states to make them conditional on Tehran improving its dismal human rights record, EurActiv reported on Wednesday.
Both politicians played an important role in shaping the EU’s dealings with other countries over the last decade. Michel, father of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, was European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid between 2004 and 2009. De Gucht was in charge of the trade portfolio between 2010 and 2014.
The call will come as an embarrassment to the current European Commission, EurActiv said. In April, the EU responded to the lifting of the economic and financial sanctions linked to the Iranian regime’s nuclear programme with a landmark visit to the country of eight Commissioners, led by foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
De Gucht and Michel signed a letter urging EU institutions and member states to prioritise progress on human rights over new deals with the regime.
The text, seen by EurActiv.com, stressed that Europe should condition “any further relations with Iran to a clear progress on human rights and a halt to executions”.
The letter said that the rate of executions in the country shows “a horrific image of the planned state killing machine”, as Amnesty International underlined in July 2015.
The letter goes on to cite the regime’s close ties with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and Hezbollah, still included on the EU’s terrorist list; the criminal repression of ethnic and religious minorities; the marginalisation of women; the lack of guarantees for free and fair elections, and the Iranian regime’s bullying attitude toward some European countries.
The President of the regime, Hassan Rouhani, cancelled a visit to Vienna last April after the Austrian government refused to forbid a peaceful opposition rally during his visit.
“As the Iranian people and the opposition are not allowed to freely express their opinion inside Iran, we should not allow the regime’s repression inside the country to be extended to the European capitals,” the letter said.
The Belgian initiative came against the backdrop of the “new era” in the bilateral relations that EU authorities and the capitals are trying to build with Tehran, EurActiv said.
The ‘reset’ in relations between the EU and the Iranian regime came in spite of the record number of executions in Iran and the EU sanctions still imposed on the regime due to its poor human right record and links with terrorist organisations.
The UN also highlighted in March the worsening situation in terms of executions and the “fundamental flaws” in the administration of justice.
NGOs and MEPs lamented the secondary role that human right issues played during the EU’s visit to Iran.
It was “a very short visit” of one day with “a very specific purpose”, an EU official told EurActiv at the time.