International Peace Studies Centre - IPSC

The European Union and the Historic Crossroads of JCPOA


Seyed Salman Safavi & Seyed Sadreddin Safavi

International Peace Studies Centre – IPSC

On the 8th of May 2018, the President of the United States of America withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was condemned by the European Union, Russia and China, and the majority of the international community.

JCPOA was the result of more than a decade of negotiation between Iran and the European Union, Germany and the five permanent members of UNSC.  It was one of, if not the most important international agreements of the 21st century. It was a testament to ability of the current system of International governance to resolve crisis peacefully. JCPOA showed that through diplomacy, constructive dialogue, and taking into consideration the interest of all parties with stakes in an issue even the most contentious issues and crisis can be resolved peacefully and amicably.

The JCPOA was in stark contrast to the US led wars in the Middle East and North Africa, which attempted to resolve conflicts of interest and disagreements through war; an approach, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives, wreaked havoc and contributed to instability and proliferation of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa. The US wars of the 21st century by all accounts proved that war and aggression is a failed approach to conflict resolution and international governance.

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA shows that the United States, particularly under Mr Trump is not a reliable partner and cannot be trusted to adhere to its international obligations. The Trump administrations arguments that the JCPOA was a non-binding agreement and that the US was free to leave the agreement at any point are invalid. The JCPOA is a binding International treaty under international law as shown by the language employed in the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231 of July 20, 2015[i]. The Vienna Convention defines a treaty in Article 2, Section 1(a) as “an international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.”[ii] International treaties form the basis of international governance and are legally binding.

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA was met with the condemnation of all the other signatories to the treaty and the majority of the international community.

The continued implementation of the JCPOA is not only important for Iran but also for the future international standing and influence of the European Union. The European Union has two roads ahead of it. Either it remains committed to the JCPOA, which is an internationally binding treaty, or it follows in the footsteps of the US and creates conditions, which will result in the collapse of the treaty.

The US withdrawal from the JCPOA has created a historic opportunity for the EU to establish itself as an independent and major world power and international player in the international power structure. The European Union has the opportunity to come out of the shadow of the United States and become a respected world power, which is able to make independent decisions based on its own security concerns and economic interests. The EU can send a strong signal to the international community: that unlike the US warmongering, nationalism and lack of respect and attention to the interest of other members of the international community, the EU has a globalist, just and peaceful approach to international relations. Shortly after The US withdrawal from the JCPOA Federica Mogherini stated EU’s position that as long as Iran remains committed to the JCPOA the “European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal”[iii] This is a positive first step. However, what is important is that the EU understands the JCPOA is independent of concerns the EU might have in regards to Iran’s role in the Middle East and Iran’s defensive capabilities.

For the EU to show itself as an independent and major world power, it must give the necessary guarantees to Iran that it will benefit from the JCPOA without attempting to impose any new conditions, which do not already exist in the JCPOA. The EU must give practical guarantees that the economic and technological benefits Iran was promised in the JCPOA will come to reality. The EU must guarantee that they will support EU companies that trade with Iran against any possible penalties imposed by the US against them because of their trade with Iran. This will guarantee the EU access to the Iranian market. The Iranian economy is the second largest economy in the MENA region with a GDP of 439.5 billion USD in 2017[iv] and a population of 82 million, which is the second largest in the region. European countries are already present in the Iranian market and Germany is amongst the top importers to Iran. Further, it will secure EU’s relation with Iran, which has the second largest discovered gas reserves of the world and the fourth largest discovered oil reserves, a country whose total amount of mineral reserves has been estimated at 50 billion tonnes[v] and has the most important geopolitical situation in West Asia and is the greatest player in West Asia.

The EU must finally open its banking system to the Iranian banking system and facilitate regular trade between Iran and the EU. Currently the European banking system continues to remain closed to Iran, and in some EU capitals, the bank account of EU companies which trade with Iran are closed. What is required of EU is to show that it is capable of being a world leader, and it will not succumb to various US pressures as it has done in the past. Securing the full implementation of the JCPOA will be marked in history as the moment the EU stepped out of the shadow of the US and became a major independent world power.

The second route the European Union can take is to leave the JCPOA, or create conditions, which will result in the collapse of the deal. If the future of the JCPOA fails to be secured, the EU will remain in the shadow of the US. The international community will no longer see the EU as an independent party in negotiations and agreements, but rather consider EU foreign policy, particularly in regards to important international agreements, as an extension of US foreign policy. Further, the EU will lose the Iranian market, and Russia and China will become the dominant countries in the Iranian market.

We hope that the EU follows through on the statements it has made in condemning the Trump administrations withdrawal from the JCPOA and that it remains fully committed to the JCPOA.







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