Since the July 14 signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), European institutions have been actively seeking ways to boost the union’s ties with Tehran.
In 2003, when international concerns over the nature of the Iranian nuclear program emerged following leaks about two previously undisclosed nascent nuclear facilities — the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and the heavy water reactor at Arak — the European Union decided to halt its “comprehensive dialogue” with Tehran. The E3 (France, Germany and the United Kingdom) soon took on a mediating role between Iran and the international community in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, remaining involved in the negotiating process for more than 12 years. During this time frame — and particularly after Iran’s nuclear dossier was referred to the UN Security Council in early 2006 — the nuclear issue was the only matter on which cooperation and communication between Iran and Europe continued. Issues such as human rights, terrorism, trade and proliferation, which were previously discussed by the two sides, dropped out of the bilateral conversation. Now, as a result of the JCPOA, the EU has shown an inclination to reverse this path.