European transparency center!

March 8, 2009 - 0:0

Hot topics on the European Agenda -- from the global financial crisis to the climate change challenge and the EU’s responses -- were discussed during our one-and-a-half-hour meeting with Piotr Kaczynski of the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) on Tuesday morning, December 2, 2008.

Then we met Walter Posch of the Paris Institute for Security Studies (ISS), who gave us a general overview of EU-Iran relations.
Before noon, there was a one-hour-talk with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU commissioner for external and European neighborhood policy. It was of value to us. Iran’s inalienable right to utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes was again fully recognized. She called for nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic to end Iran’s prolonged nuclear standoff with the West. On the U.S. election, Ferrero-Waldner pointed to the need for direct dialogue between Iran and the United States.
EU-Iran cultural-economic cooperation, the EU’s financial support to Iran for the campaign against drug abuse and trafficking, the two sides’ academic relations, including exchanges of university students, and the union’s plan for the establishment of a new Persian language TV network with the aim of facilitating direct communication with the Iranian nation were among the issues addressed by Ferrero-Waldner during our meeting.
It was a great pity! Again we were given no chance to ask about the EU’s failure to fully cooperate with Iran in the campaign against drug trafficking, NATO’s role in the control of opium cultivation in Afghanistan, which is the greatest opium producer in the world, as well as their uncivilized decision to forbid Iranian students from majoring in a number of subjects, such as nuclear physics, chemistry, metallurgy, and nuclear medicine, at their universities!!
We paid a visit to the office of Le Soir, the 111-year-old Belgian newspaper with a daily circulation of 95,000. After a working lunch with its deputy managing director and political desk editor, we were briefed on its policies, and then paid a visit to its editorial board.
Afterwards, human rights violations in Europe, the situation of minorities and immigrants, and Islamophobia were addressed in a meeting with several human rights activists, including Shada Islam.
She said that due to the decrease in Europe’s birth rate, it is in need of immigrants for its survival, so immigrants’ civil rights should not be ignored under the pretext of the campaign against terrorism.
We also met Sebastian Fletti of the EU News Agency, Gareth Harding, the director of the Missouri School of Journalism’s Brussels program, and Paul Taylor of the Reuters news agency on December 2, 2008.
Each of them gave their outlook on the European Union, the initial U.S. opposition to the establishment of the European Union as a united political center, the global financial crisis and its effect on European integration, and the EU’s efforts to unify Europe.
Taylor called the European Union a car with no destination. Referring to the power of the centripetal and centrifugal forces in the union, he said, “Such issues will prevent us from having a united union in the near future.”
On Wednesday morning, December 3, we had a meeting with David Ringrose, the head of Unit DG RELEX of the European Commission, in which we saw the results of the BBC public opinion poll which showed that a very small number of Iranians have a positive attitude toward the European Union!
And then, after several meetings with European Union officials and talks on subjects such as the Middle East, the EU’s public diplomacy, and its serious efforts to strengthen cultural-academic ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran, there was a meeting subtly different from the others.
In a deep conversation with European Commission official Geremy Nagoda, we understood that he would be the EU’s special representative for Iran if Tehran approves.
The European Union at a glance
The European Union with a population of about 500 million -- more than the United States and Russia combined -- is the world’s biggest trader and generates one quarter of global wealth. Its currency, the euro, comes second only to the U.S. dollar in international financial markets.
Born in the aftermath of World War II, its main goal is serving as a model for integration between countries in other regions of the world.
Its major challenge now is to spread peace and security beyond the European Union’s borders. To meet this challenge, the EU is developing a common foreign and security policy so that it can realize its potential and act as a force for stability, cooperation, and understanding in the wider world.
The European Commission has 130 delegations worldwide, manned by more than 5,000 staff encompassing all continents. The delegations are normal diplomatic missions complementary to EU member states’ embassies and reflect the distribution of competences and functions between the EU member states and the European Commission.
The delegations play a key role in the promotion of EU interests and values around the world, and are on the front line in delivering EU external relations policy and action, from the common foreign and security policy through trade and development cooperation to scientific and technical relations.
The delegations, although hierarchically a part of the commission structure, in practice serve European Union interests throughout the world. They act not only as the eyes and ears of the commission in their host countries but also as its mouthpiece vis-a-vis the authorities and the general population.
According to the EU’s website, there are 118 delegations in third countries and 5 delegations (in Geneva, New York, Paris, Rome, and Vienna) at the centers of international organizations (the OECD, OSCE, UN, and WTO), which present, explain, and implement EU policy; analyze and report on the policies and developments of the countries to which they are accredited; and finally conduct negotiations in accordance with a given mandate.
The European Union currently also has eleven special representatives (EUSRs) in different regions of the world. The EUSRs promote European Union policies and interests in troubled regions and countries and play an active role in efforts to consolidate peace, stability, and the rule of law.
The eleven EUSRs currently in office cover the following regions: Afghanistan, the African Great Lakes Region, the African Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Central Asia, Kosovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Middle East, Moldova, the South Caucasus, and Sudan. Some EUSRs are resident in their country or region of activity while others are working on a traveling basis from Brussels.
And in Iran, they plan to appoint a special representative, even though Tehran is strongly opposed to this decision.
Why is it that for countries much smaller and weaker than Iran, the EU has established delegations, but when it comes to Iran -- a country of 70 million people with a long history and a great civilization that plays a critical role in the region -- they refuse to send an ambassador?
There is great potential for the expansion of relations between Iran and the EU. Whilst practical cooperation between the EU and Iran already exists, the scope is currently well below the potential.
It seems that Iran–EU relations have been greatly affected by political issues. The ongoing question of Iran’s peaceful nuclear program has had a very negative impact on bilateral trade relations.
The EU is the leading trade partner of Iran, accounting for almost a third of its exports. Close to 90% of EU imports from Iran are energy related. And Iran ranks as the sixth leading supplier of energy products to the EU. Although the relationship could be greatly enhanced, its development has been hampered by the ongoing problems related to Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities.
EU countries and Iran have been trade partners for many years and cannot ignore each other.
Finally, our meeting with Javier Solana began with the hope of hearing about the possibility of closer EU-Iran cooperation in science and technology, energy, transport, the environment, drug control, asylum and migration, education and culture, and many other areas of shared interest.
From the first day of the trip, the group counted down the days to our one-hour press conference with Solana, with the hope that we would get answers to our questions and achieve direct, positive, and reasonable results, but it turned out to be just a pipe dream. No definite and straight answers were heard, only conservative and diplomatic responses. If the European Union is a car with no destination, its diplomacy is definitely on a trackless path!!
On nuclear energy, we heard that “it is your need and right, but…” Solana said, producing and utilizing nuclear power is complicated and “nothing like as easy as making a bicycle!”
It’s pretty obvious he means that access to nuclear power is our right but is beyond our dignity!!
On the world community’s double-standard policies on international issues, the Middle East, and human rights violations, our questions remained unanswered!!
In reply to our question as to why the EU reneged on the 2005 nuclear agreement with Iran, he called for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue and said he expected a definite answer from Tehran!!
France’s failure to abide by its contract commitment to provide fuel for Iran’s nuclear reactors was another subject raised, but again there was no definite answer!! We heard that Russia would provide nuclear fuel for the Bushehr plant for 10 years.
Stressing that Russia is a member of the 5+1 group and has a veto in the UN Security Council, Solana said that although France didn’t abide by its commitment to provide fuel for Iran’s nuclear plant, “Now you have access to the enriched uranium fuel for producing nuclear energy” and this is of great importance and nothing else matters.
We also raised the question of Barack Obama’s policy toward Iran. He said, “I’m not the U.S. president” and not able to speak on his behalf, he must formulate his own policy.
On the U.S. election’s effect on the European Union approach to Iran’s nuclear program, he asked, “What’s the reason behind Iran’s plan for uranium enrichment?”
He urged Iran to provide a guarantee that its nuclear activities are peaceful, as if he didn’t know the role of the IAEA!!
On the EU’s double-standard policies in regard to Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities and Israel’s nuclear weapons program and the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, Solana immediately called for a safe and secure Middle East -- free of nuclear weapons!
India is the only country with nuclear weapons which is not a party to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but is still allowed to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world.
Our meeting continued for two hours, but our main question remained unanswered: If Iran’s nuclear activities are under the supervision of the IAEA and in accordance with international law, why should they be restricted because certain countries want to hinder Iran’s technological development?
(To be continued