EU-Iran Move Closer, Majlis to Make Landmark Visit to EP

June 16, 2003 - 0:0
BRUSSELS -- A delegation from the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) begins a landmark visit to the European Parliament today aimed at promoting parliamentary cooperation and boosting dialogue between the Islamic Republic and the European Union, IRNA reported.

The official visit of the Majlis delegation, led by Mohsen Mirdamadi, head of the National Security and Foreign Relations Commission, to the European Parliament is the first since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Analysts opine the three-day visit of the Majlis delegation highlights the desire and will of both sides to expand and improve relations.

The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, Friday called on the EU to engage Iran in a critical dialogue as part of a new regional strategy. The first sold steps to promote cooperation between the EP and Majlis was taken during the historical visit of an EP delegation to Iran in July last year.

The EP delegation was led by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Elmar Brok.

This was followed by a ground-breaking speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Kamal Kharrazi to the European Parliament in Brussels last January.

In his speech, Kharrazi called on Europe to support the Islamic Republic's reform process and its style of religious democracy.

As one more sign of growing Majlis-EP ties, for the first time the EP hosted an exhibition on Iranian culture and history last January.

Last December. the EU and Iran launched negotiations to sign a Trade and Cooperation Agreement in parallel with political negotiations and a human rights dialogue. The EP has said that it considers Iran's readiness to enter into a human rights dialogue with the European Union with no preconditions as "a positive development with a view to the normalization of relations between the EU and Iran." EU officials said the recently concluded fourth round of EU-Iran Trade and Cooperation Agreement negotiations in Tehran "are going very well."

Progress is also being made in the political negotiations between Iran and the EU, noted the sources. Three rounds of political negotiations have been held so far.

The EP attaches great importance to issues like human rights, democracy, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, rule of law and these issues are bound to be discussed between the two sides.

The Majlis delegation's visit to the EP comes amid rising regional tension and insecurity following the US occupation of Iraq and increasing violence in Palestine.

On Iraq, the EP had issued a resolution against the war and has called for a central UN role in post-war Iraq.

The absence of any contact between the EP and Iran during the last two decades was exploited by those opposing any EU-Iran engagement to create a distorted image of the Islamic Republic in the minds of many MEPs.

The current visit by the Majlis delegation is an opportunity to rectify that false image and remove misunderstandings.

Nobody expects that the two sides will agree on all contentious issues, but the important thing is that a process of dialogue has started that will lead to better understanding and respect for each other's views and positions.

EU officials have been underlining the big economic potential of Iran: its vital geo-strategic position and its important role in solving regional and international problems, as well as its contribution to the fight against international drug trafficking.

For its part, Iran seeks closer economic and political ties with the EU, its largest trading partner, and wants more European investments in the Islamic Republic.