Skip to main content

Controversy flares over opening of EU office in Iran

Iran's Foreign Ministry has sparked confusion in sending mixed signals about the government's position on opening an EU office in Tehran.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi announced that the legal process for opening a European Union office in Tehran remains ongoing, but his own ministry’s spokesman denied the report. In a Nov. 6 interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency, Takht-Ravanchi said that with improving relations with the EU, “It is now crucial to open the EU office in the Iranian capital.” He added, “Since we have more collaborations [with the EU] due to new developments, it is unmanageable for an ambassador [to Iran] of another European country to take care of Iran-European Union relations.”

On Nov. 7, however, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi, in his weekly news conference, sparked controversy over Takht-Ravanchi’s comments by asserting that there is no “decisive and comprehensive view” on opening such an office in Tehran in the near future. “Negotiations [with the EU] are broad, long, time-consuming and complicated. However, we consider the talks per se as positive in finding common grounds for cooperation,” he said.

These contradictory remarks come two weeks after Iranian conservatives voiced objection to an Oct. 25 resolution by the European Parliament calling for normalization of relations with Iran. Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Iranian judiciary’s Human Rights Council, criticized the EU’s resolution on Oct. 26, saying, “They should know that the judicial system will definitely not allow such a nest of corruption to be established in Iran.”

It was certainly not the first time that a right-wing politician spoke out in a way opposing President Hassan Rouhani’s policy of improving relations with Western countries. In contrast, the Reformists have taken a supportive stance toward the expansion of bilateral ties with other nations.

On Nov. 7, the front-page headline of the Reformist Shargh Daily, read, “Green Light for Opening EU Office.” Shargh went on to note, “Rouhani’s administration has just a few months to complete its task of breaking taboos [by expanding diplomatic ties with Western states].” Shargh cited the historic phone call between Rouhani and US President Barack Obama on Sept. 27, 2013, and the reopening of the British Embassy in Tehran on Aug. 23, 2015, as previous incidents breaking the taboo of restoring relations with Western powers.

The Reformist Arman also endorsed the move, stating, “After the nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers was reached, and due to the recent interactions with European countries, reopening the EU office in Tehran has been a necessity.”

Besides the political significance of normalizing diplomatic relations with the EU, such a move would also be of economic importance to the Rouhani administration and its open-door economic policy. Donya-e Eqtesad focused on this aspect Nov. 7 in an interview with Mansour Moazemi, deputy minister of industry, mines and trade. “The presence of foreign delegations in Iran has been on the increase since the current administration took office,” Moazemi observed.

“These delegations come to assess Iran’s potential in economic, social and political terms [for investment and trade],” he added. “But we cannot expect all economic issues to be resolved immediately after the [nuclear] deal with world powers.”

Meanwhile, commentators from the other end of Iran’s political spectrum believe that Rouhani’s economic policy has been unsuccessful in healing the wounds created by international sanctions. In this regard, the conservative Kayhan criticized Rouhani’s policies with the headline “Economy Is in Good Condition, but Only on Paper.” The daily asserted, “On the one hand, we hear that the country’s economic growth has reached 6%, but on the other hand, we hear that some have not received their salaries, or part of them, for months.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial