Business Briefs

The EU and Iran

Relations between the EU and Iran are currently at a low ebb. A new raft of strict economic sanctions were imposed by the EU on July 1, 2012, no future talks are scheduled between Iran and the ‘Group of Six’ (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US) on nuclear disarmament, and the EU’s High Representative has stated that the two negotiating sides are far apart in terms of their respective positions.

While the EU has, for much of the last fifteen years, taken a softer approach towards Iran than the United States, it has gradually been brought into line by the intransigence of the Iranian regime over issues of its nuclear weapons program, its activities across the region (and particularly in supporting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan), its continued hostilities towards Israel and its domestic human rights position, which the EU believes has deteriorated even further since 2009. There are, however, large costs for the EU in pursuing a tougher stance towards Iran: a substantial number of European firms have strong export links with Iran, a number of struggling EU member governments are dependent on their supply of Iranian oil, and Iran represents the main holding point and route for Afghan refugees transiting to the EU. This briefing paper ultimately argues that given the threats posed to Europe by the Iranian nuclear weapons program, the EU has yet to devise a policy response that is adequate to the task.



  • Context
  • War with Iran?
  • Nuclear Weapons Program and the Sanctions Regime
  • Sanctions Regime
  • Financial Sanctions
  • Conclusion


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