Led by the E3, Europeans were united around the diplomatic and the sanctions tracks against Iran, but the policy has still not led to a change in Iranian nuclear policy.
The EU presented a united and active front in 2012 on the nuclear programme in Iran, with a dual-track approach of sanctions and dialogue. In the context of the E3+3 negotiations, the UK, France, and Germany continued to take the lead in communicating the EU’s strategy. In a joint statement in January, they announced the adoption of the EU oil embargo on Iran and asset freeze on the Iranian central bank. High Representative Catherine Ashton and the EEAS also played a leading role in diplomatic negotiations throughout the year. The EU oil embargo and asset freeze agreed in January came into full force in July in order to give Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain – significant importers of Iranian oil – time to adjust. In October, the EU introduced a new set of restrictive measures. EU sanctions are now biting but are also beginning to have humanitarian consequences, with rising prices for basic commodities and shortages pushing the cost of living up to unmanageable levels for parts of the Iranian population. However, this strategy has still not led to a change in Iranian nuclear policy – and Europeans do not seem to have a plan B if negotiations fail in 2013.
EU member states largely left the EU institutions to take the lead on the human-rights situation in Iran. In March, however, they did renew and extend the travel ban and asset freeze on targeted members of the Iranian government implicated in violations. Ashton issued a series of statements on human-rights violations, majoring on condemnation of Iran’s use of the death penalty. In October, a long-postponed and controversial European Parliament delegation visit to Tehran was again cancelled at the last moment, reportedly because of the lack of guarantees that it would be able to meet human-rights defenders. As with its dual-track strategy on the Iranian nuclear programme, the EU’s human-rights policy was implemented quite consistently but yielded few clear results in 2012.
|Leaders: France - Germany - United Kingdom|