Dimitris Rapidis

On January 20 the European Union is going to implement all sanctions relief for Iran, including bans on insuring and transporting Iranian oil, petrochemicals, gold, and other precious metals. The lifting of bans will last for six months, and within this timeframe the Iranian government is expected to start decreasing and eliminating uranium enrichment of its nuclear program.

The Geneva Accord that was signed last Novermber gives a great chance for Tehran to escape from diplomatic isolation and start participating in equal terms in the regional, and international, geopolitical chessboard. Meantime Israel, which considers that this Accord is encouraging Iran to move further into its nuclear warfare capacity, is endeavoring to implement a new multilateral policy on foreign affairs, experiencing for a first time in the state’s history a kind of alienation from its traditional allies – i.e. the United States and the European Union. Israel is now turning its interest to emerging markets, like China and Mexico, while building an unprecedented partnership with Saudi Arabia and the Scandinavians in the field of technology, acknowledging the strongest asset of the country which is the tehnological pioneering in the field of security, high-end software, and intelligence programming.

The Geneva Accord has been highlighted by a rigorous “comeback” of the European Union through the presence of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Secutiry Policy Catherine Ashton. In complete disaccord with the EU’s low crisis-capacity and management in the case of the bloodshed in Syria, Catherine Ashton has achieved to put the Union ahead in the negotiations, suggesting solutions and breaching the deadlocks in the roundtable groups. Both in the level of communication in front of the cameras and the media, as well as behind the curtains, the European Union had a clear voice: to bring Iran back in the international arena and pull the carpet of the Islamist guardians delicately.

EU’s foreign policy shift can be explained from different angles. Regarding Israel, the EU has decided that the best way to press Jerusalem to temper its position against Palestine and contribute significantly to the peace talks is to create a feeling of alienation. Regaring Iran, the EU believes that the political and religious leverage of the country as well as the commercial and energy capacity that Tehran demonstrates need to be further incorporated in a broader and extrovert shift of EU’s energy policy in order to build more synergies and alternatives regarding gas and oil supply. In addition, EU strongly advocates for a more efficient mediation of Iran in the civil conflict of Syria to cool down tensions and support a ceasefire. Regarding the bilateral relations with the United States, the EU is managing to reinvigorate financial partnership with Washington in order to better address the economic crisis and retract overseas investors in the European banking and insurance sector. There is, finally, a more self-centered approach that relies on the personal ambition of some EU leaders, including Baroness Katherine Ashton, to be credited this shift of the EU’s foreign policy for political reasons in the view of the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament.

Overall, what the story of the Geneva Accord demonstrates is a conflicting image of a European Union: while it lately develops strong signs of strategic mediation abroad, it proves to be completely incapable in managing major policy areas domestically.

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