The presidential elections in Iran gave the incumbent president Hassan Rouhani a very solid mandate to continue his policy of rapprochement that he has pursued since 2013. With 23.5 million votes that he gained already in the first round, he secured an outright victory. With a high turnaround of 73 percent, the result means a broad support for President Rouhani to draw on his policy successes, such as the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA).
This overwhelming success is an empathetic endorsement of the moderate course. However, this moment needs to be taken and supported by international efforts so that it can come to fruition. Given the uncertainty and animosity emanating from the US administration, the European Union has a chance to lead the international efforts in approaching Tehran.
Thanks to the election result, Europe and the international community can be now sure of the continuity in terms of foreign policy. The poll was essentially a referendum on whether Tehran would stick to nuclear deal and this was clear from the comments of EU policy chief Federica Mogherini who congratulated President Rouhani on his “strong mandate” immediately after the result had been announced. She tweeted Europe’s priorities in under 160 characters: “#EU ready to continue work for full JCPOA implementation, bilat engagement, regional peace, and meet expectations of all people in #Iran”.
In her short tweet, she managed to address the main criticism of the nuclear deal that it has not yet managed to restore economic growth. Although there have been some successes – such as bringing down inflation from 40 to 10 percent and achieving a 5 percent growth – they have not been felt by ordinary Iranians just yet.
The EU now needs to take initiative on the sanctions and provide financing and payment channels so that Iranian businesses are not affected by the existing restrictions. As Mrs. Mogherini suggested in her tweet, the EU needs to pursue broad-based bilateral cooperation with third-party states. Brussels must stay determined to go beyond the narrow focus of the nuclear deal and broaden cooperation with Iran in all walks of life.
‘Why Iran Represents an Opportunity for Europe’ – Op-Ed by Cornelius Adebahr – Carnegie Europe.
(The Op-Ed can be downloaded here)