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The EU has called for closer economic and political co-operation as a way of helping bolster stability in the Middle East and capitalising on trade and investment opportunities emerging following the relaxation of sanctions in January.
“….the EU is genuinely interested in a relationship with Iran and that it is acting independently from the US,” a report by the EU’s directorate general for external policies says. “It is therefore important to establish working committees for relevant sectors where regular interaction can allow the parties to go beyond high politics and build multi-level cooperation between institutions.”
The report calls for regular meetings between members of the European parliament and Iran’s Majlis.
“These political and institutional relationships must also be accompanied by greater facilitation of communication and cooperation between civil society actors,” the report says. “Cultural programmes, targeted academic exchange programs (rather than individual students/local faculty initiatives), and grassroots organisations dealing with social and environmental issues, must be encouraged and supported.”
The report says increased EU trade with Iran presents a win-win opportunity for both sides.
“Of particular relevance for Iran and the EU are three areas where technology transfer and environmental and human health concerns are salient features; renewable energies, urban sustainability, and water management,” the report says.
The report calls for the EU to start dialogue with Iran about a “new security architecture for the Middle East.”
“The EU is in a unique position to undertake this as it has good relations with all major actors in the region and will give the process credibility and bring all the parties in as stakeholders,” it says “The first step is to initiate a strategic discussion on conflict resolution and use this as a stepping stone to resolve the present conflicts in the region. The second step is to use the various areas of cooperation mentioned in this report (nuclear safety, combatting drugs etc.) and expand the conversation to include Iran’s Arab neighbours.”
The EU-Iran dialogue should also look beyond te common concerns in the Middle East to encompass
the stabilisation of Afghanistan and mediation of conflicts such as the one between Armenia and Azerbaijan.