DIIS Reports / Danish Institute for International Studies 2010:11
Europe and Iran have had important political, cultural and commercial relations that date back several centuries, but these relations have been steadily strained since 2002 when the uncertainty with regard to Iran’s nuclear program became an issue of international concern. In demonstrating its role as an important foreign-policy actor capable of taking the lead in resolving global crises, through the leadership of France, Germany and the United Kingdom (the EU3) the EU has spearheaded efforts to obtain a solution to the deadlock between Tehran and the international community over Iran’s nuclear program. This approach has not been fully successful in achieving its goal and has contributed to straining EU-Iran relations. The EU has yet to develop a unified, independent and long-term strategy vis-à-vis Iran that would enable it to maintain a constructive relationship with Tehran and achieve its strategic objectives without compromising its core values. The four strategies available to the EU are: a) use of force/military action; b) containment and deterrence; c) engagement; and d) non-entanglement. While the EU’s short–term tactics represent a mixture of engagement and containment, this paper argues that, in the case of Iran, the two approaches cancel each other out. To increase its leverage on Iran on the nuclear issue and beyond, the EU must adopt a realpolitik strategy of détente, building confidence with the regime in Tehran and obtaining policy progress through non-controversial mutual areas of interest. The EU High Representative should also take a more active role in leading the EU’s efforts.