Published 10:39 March 3, 2007
Updated 10:39 March 3, 2007
The time for Europe to end our two-headed policy on the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, is now. Iran, in violation of the recent unanimous UN Security Council Chapter 7 Resolution, has not only failed to stop enriching uranium, it has said with defiance that it will continue to enrich at a greater pace.
Until now, however, the response from Europe has been schizophrenic. Security minded officials in the European Union have agreed to impose sanctions on Iran. This is critical leadership that could help bring a peaceful solution to a dangerous nuclear standoff.
Meanwhile, European big business interests have placed money before our security and have twisted government policy so many European taxpayers (who likely do it without even knowing) continue to lavish economic and financial support to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Indeed, the European Union has long been one of the largest trading partners of Iran, and as surprising as it might sound today, it has developed its operations and investments in Iran parallel with the development by Iran of its nuclear program.
Between 2003 and 2005, Europe’s exports to Iran rose 29 percent to 12.9 billion Euro; machinery, transport equipment and chemicals make up the bulk of the sales. European imports from Iran, predominantly oil, increased 62 percent to 11.4 billion Euro in that period. In addition, Europe heavily invests in Iranian oil, gas, mining automotive, transportation and communications companies.
Europe is Iran’s main supplier of goods and makes up 44 percent of the country’s total imports.
There are reasons to believe that a significant part of that commerce is subsidised by European tax euros which underwrite deals with and within Iran. Indeed, in some European nations such as Germany, the Federal government export credit guarantees play a very important role for German exports to Iran. It insures, through export guarantee programs, approximately 65 percent of the total German exports to Iran. After Germany (with around 5.5 billion of Euro of export guarantees), comes Italy (with around 4.5 billion of Euro of export guarantees), and then France (with around one billion Euro export guarantees). Austria too guarantees about 800 million Euro of exports to Iran. These enormous numbers seem to indicate mainly two things, the huge amount of the trade between Iran and European companies, but also the support of some of the main European governments to the trade made by their some of their nation’s largest companies.
European petroleum companies such as Shell, Total or Repsol have massive oil contracts in Iran – making enormous tax-payer subsidised sums by doing business with Iran. All the while they are putting our security at risk.
The time to start asking the tough questions about Europe’s two-headed policies on Iran is now. Without our support, would Iran be slowed or perhaps even stopped from developing an expensive nuclear program? Would economic pressure keep Iran from getting components for both their nuclear program and the missiles they supply to Hezbollah and others?
If we cut our economic hand-outs to Iran, can we slow of stop Iran’s own purchases and tests of long-and-short-range missiles that can hit any Mideast nation and parts of Europe? And finally, if we in Europe stop our lavish financial ties to Iran, can we help stop the flow of hundreds of millions in Iran’s profits to dangerous terrorist groups around the world – terrorist groups who have already recruited more than 25,000 people who say they want to become suicide bombers?
Economic sanctions are not a sure bet. However, they did tremendous good in hard situations with South Africa and Libya in the past. Today they are starting to yield promising progress with Sudan and North Korea.
It is vital to stand up for peace. Our governments should work long and hard diplomatically using all of the tools at our disposal – including meaningful economic sanctions which include ending European taxpayer paid subsidies to big companies doing business with those who want to kill us.
We as Europeans have the ability to make the world a safer place and it is out responsibility to do so.
Paulo Casaca is a member of the European Parliament from Portugal, chairman of the delegation for the relations with the NATO parliamentary assembly, and member of the delegation for relations with Iran