Europe’s Iranian communities have been protesting in many different languages but with one voice.
In Berlin, Paris, Rome and London, the Persian diaspora has expressed its outrage at the allegations of election fraud and the violent crackdown that followed. Across Europe, governments have been joining them. Several EU countries have summoned their respective Iranian ambassadors, London and Tehran have traded diplomatic expulsions and firm condemnations have echoed throughout the 27-nation bloc. But the EU is not yet ready to act, according to External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. She told euronews: “I’m sure that now everybody wants to give the dialogue a chance but in these, as I have said, difficult internal situations, let us see if this is possible. If there is no dialogue, no result of negotiations, at a certain moment the question of sanctions will come back and I’m sure the Europeans will study all the difficult details of which sanctions, in which form and then I’m sure we’ll come to a common position.” But Europe failed to find a successful common position when it came to Iran’s nuclear programme. Britain, France and Germany, known as the EU-3, ended up reporting Tehran to the UN Security Council in 2006, after the break-down of the so-called Paris Agreement on uranium enrichment. For many analysts, imposing sanctions is not a decision the EU can take lightly, as Shada Islam of the European Policy Centre explains: “There will be no talk at the moment at least of economic sanctions or trade sanctions against Iran and there are several reasons for that. Iran is a lucrative business location for the European Union. I mean the EU, whether its France, Germany, Italy, sells billions of euros-worth of goods to Iran so they are not going to cut off that market, especially at a time of economic crisis. Then on the other hand, Iran supplies the majority percentage of European oil so at a time when the EU is trying to diversify its energy security, where Russia is also a problem, they’re not going to worsen their relations with Iran.” After Russia, the EU is Iran’s biggest trading partner. Europe sells its goods there and buys in its energy. In its criticism of recent events in Tehran, Europe’s actions could speak louder than its words but in this economic context, they would also be more costly.