Parliament calls for new relationship with Iran

Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, has addressed the full Parliament in Strasbourg on the recent Iranian nuclear agreement, stressing the need for a new relationship between the EU and Iran.

In opening the parliamentary debate, the High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms Federica Mogherini stated that the nuclear deal with Iran has, "put an end to decades of tensions and mistrust", stipulating that, "the moment was really a historic one." Ms Mogherini later said that, "what we achieved in Vienna is a victory for diplomacy, multilateralism, and in this instance a victory for the European Union".

During the debate, Alyn Smith said:

"Mr President, a clear majority of the people of Scotland are very strongly in favour of the abolition of nuclear weapons – nuclear disarmament – so it is all the more of a democratic outrage that Scotland hosts the entire UK nuclear arsenal. But that is a discussion for another day; it is a shame Mr Tannock has left us.

"On their behalf, I very strongly welcome this deal as an important step forward globally –as our High Representative rightly says – of an example towards nuclear non‑proliferation. So we very much endorse the praise and recognition that Ms Mogherini, her team and indeed her predecessors do rightly deserve. Yes, the stars had to align in a wider context, but this was the EU acting as the EU for perhaps the first time, where we played a significant central role that nobody else could have done in bringing this deal home. I think that does deserve the recognition that we have heard tonight.

"We had a pressing need to bring Iran in from the cold. The cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is right now having grave consequences in the region. In Yemen, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, we are seeing interference by both countries in the internal affairs of their neighbours. The global community had to find a way to reboot our relationship with Iran, a country that could, and should, be a strong ally. I do not think it is fanciful to think of Iran in those terms in a number of areas.

"So what does the future look like, now that we can think about a new relationship? I would strongly endorse Ms Schaake’s comments, and again the EU can play a role in this. We have a lot of experience in bringing mistrusting parties together. High Representative, what thought has been put into confidence-building measures across the Arabian, or indeed the Persian Gulf between the Gulf States and Iran, where a deep mistrust has been allowed to develop? Also, on human rights, Iran’s record – as we rightly say tonight – is poor. That is not unique within the region, of course, but this House in March 2014 called for an EU‑Iran human rights dialogue. Can you assure us that that remains a central plank of our engagement?

"On trade, where we really do have muscle and leverage, after years of sanctions the EU trade diplomacy surely gives us real leverage over Iran and that dialogue. Is it too early to talk of an EU-Iran trade deal? If it is, perhaps we can start thinking in that direction to encourage them into that dialogue".

In November 2014, Alyn tabled a Parliamentary Question to Ms Mogherini on the EU Strategy towards Iran that was answered later in March 2015.

You may also access Alyn's speech on the Iranian nuclear agreement can be reached here.