EU focuses on small, medium enterprises for coop with Iran

Tehran, June 13, IRNA - EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday briefed a preliminary session of the European Parliament on the measures adopted by the EU to save Iran nuclear deal and said the bloc keeps a strong focus on small and medium enterprises.

'Many European companies have chosen to do business with Iran after the agreement was reached and are doing so in good faith, based on commitments made by the international community, based on the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution [2231], adopted unanimously. Some of them have already announced now that they would discontinue their engagement to avoid US penalties. Others have informed that they would withdraw from negotiations that had already started, leaving, by the way, the economic and investment space to other players in the world, which is also not in the European interest,' Mogherini said.

'We are also working on concrete measures aimed at sustaining our cooperation in key economic sectors, particularly on banking and finance, trade and investment, oil, and transport. In this work, we keep a strong focus on small and medium enterprises, which are less engaged in the US market. The most important challenge now is to find solutions on banking and finance, because legitimate trade and investment need banking partners and financing models that work. These issues are being addressed through intensive expert consultations happening basically on a daily basis, including in Brussels and in Tehran last week, but also at the political level, ' she said.

Mogherini said 'The recent statements by Iran on uranium hexafluoride must be seen in this context. These announcements are clearly not a violation of the nuclear deal, but it is also clear that they do not contribute to build confidence and they are meant to put pressure on the international community. The letter sent by President [of Iran, Hassan] Rouhani to the Heads of State or Government of France, Germany and the UK is to be interpreted exactly in the same context.

'Now it is clear that our strategic and security interest is to save, to preserve this nuclear deal. We have reacted in a firm, decisive and united manner to protect at the same time our security interest and - let me say it this way - our economic sovereignty. This is also an incentive, I would say the incentive, for Iran to continue complying with its nuclear restrictions. Any other alternative could have tragic consequences – and it would make us all less secure, with no exceptions.

'As a first major step, last Wednesday [6 June], the European Commission has adopted two Delegated Acts. The first is an update of the Blocking Statute, which forbids EU companies to comply with US secondary sanctions. And the second one is an extension of the external lending mandate of the European Investment Bank to support economic activities in Iran. After a period of non-objection, both Acts should enter into force on 5 August, just before the first batch of re-imposed US sanctions takes effect on 6 August. The support of this Parliament to conclude both processes swiftly will be of essence, and extremely important, also as a political sign.

'You know that just a few hours ago the United States and the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] ended their Summit in Singapore. Today's summit between the two proves that diplomacy and dialogue are the only way forward, in this case towards lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, and beyond.'

The EU foreign policy chief went on to say: 'Let me say that in more general terms, this is a clear sign of the fact that the diplomatic track is often challenging, is often the most difficult one to be followed, but it is always the rewarding one and needs to be sustained over time.

'It was the same track that the international community and the European Union followed for over a decade with Iran, resulting in the nuclear deal – almost exactly three years ago. We did it because it was our European security interest and the global security interest. Through this deal, we prevented nuclear proliferation, we avoided a regional escalation.

'Three years on, the deal is delivering. Iran abides by its nuclear-related commitments, as it has been confirmed eleven times by the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], last time just a few weeks ago.'

She added 'This is why we decided - and we have started to do so - to set up a network of national focal points of all EU Member States to further coordinate and intensify our work. This is essential to keep Iran in the nuclear agreement.

'But of course, Iran also needs to do its part and this is very clear, to improve its standards against money laundering and terrorist financing and step up banking reforms. These are essential steps to make Iran more attractive to European businesses and banks.

'Last week, the Foreign and Finance Ministers of France, Germany, the UK, together with myself, we wrote a letter to the US Secretaries of State [Mike Pompeo] and of Treasury [Steven Terner Mnuchin]. We expressed our expectation that the extraterritorial effects of US secondary sanctions will not be enforced on EU entities and individuals and that the United States respect the good faith of economic operators within EU legal territory, and we asked for a number of specific exemptions.

'Let me be very clear. First of all, this is not an economic issue for Europe, this is a security issue for Europe. This is the nuclear non-proliferation effort we are making.

'Second, our determination to preserve the deal is also in the interest of the United States, because preserving the nuclear deal is essential to our common security – both for Europe and the United States – and for the entire Middle East, that might otherwise fall into a spiral of nuclear proliferation and of an even more dangerous level of conflictuality. Think for one moment of the scenario without the nuclear agreement in place tomorrow, and you all realize how dangerous this would be for all of us.

'Preserving the nuclear deal is also essential to maintain our unique, precious – even if difficult - channels of communication with Iran. The nuclear deal was never meant to solve or to address all issues in our relation with Iran. On the contrary, at the very beginning – meaning some 15 years ago now - it was decided that the purpose of the agreement would have been limited to nuclear issues only. Like it or not, that was the mandate the High Representative at that time received from the UN Security Council and this is the mandate that was fulfilled.

'But having a nuclear deal in place with Iran has opened up a window to address other issues that are not nuclear-related and that are there, that are our issues of concern as much as they are American issues of concern. They are outside of the scope of the nuclear deal, they have always been, they need to be addressed - we believe that they can be better addressed on the basis of maintaining the nuclear deal with Iran, rather than on the basis of destroying it.


'If the nuclear deal collapses, it would also be much more difficult to address the non-nuclear concerns that we have. The current tensions on the nuclear deal have already narrowed the space for discussing all the other issues. And we believe it is in nobody's interest to close these channels, currently the ones that remain open.

'Our position on the Iran nuclear deal is based on our principles, and it is based on pragmatism. The nuclear deal makes Europe more secure, it prevents a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It brings economic benefits to the people of Iran and it should continue to do so. And it opens new, precious – even if as I said difficult - channels for diplomacy and dialogue.

'This is why we are determined to preserve the nuclear deal, and prevent a new escalation of tensions in an already troubled region and world,' she concluded.
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