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Europe-Iran Business Forum: what has changed since December ?

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The organizers of the online conference, part of the forum,  announced on their website that it will now take place from 1 March to 3 March. The program includes addresses by the ambassadors of France and Germany to Iran, according to the forum’s website presentation

 

Last December, a Europe-Iran Business Forum was cancelled following protests over the sentencing to death and execution of a dissident Iranian journalist, Ruhollah Zam.

At the time, several European countries, including France, Germany and Italy, protested the execution and pulled out of the online forum at which both EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif were due to speak.

The journalist, who was editor of the Amad News Telegram channel,  was convicted in Iran of stirring up dissent during anti-government protests in 2017 and was hanged.He had been  living in exile in France and was reportedly kidnapped after traveling to Iraq and executed.

The organizers of the forum, later said the event had been ‘’postponed’’.

The EU also condemned the execution ‘’in the strongest terms’’ and ‘’recalled its  ‘’irrevocable opposition to the use of capital punishment under any circumstances.’’

The spokesperson for EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell added: ‘’The EU believes that the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent to crime and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity. The European Union calls on Iran to refrain from any future executions and to pursue a consistent policy towards the abolition of the death penalty.’’

The Europe-Iran Business Forum, which says that it ‘’provides a platform for business and private sector to discuss issues pertaining to legitimate trade and investment’’, is funded by the European Commission ‘’as part of the EU’s comprehensive approach with Iran.’’

The organizers of the online conference, part of the forum,  announced on their website that it will now take place from 1 March to 3 March. The program includes addresses by the ambassadors of France and Germany to Iran, according to the forum’s website presentation.

”Over 2,500 individuals from more than 25 countries are expected to participate in the forum, making it the largest-ever summit focused on Europe-Iran economic relations,” it says.

The International Trade Centre, a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, has partnered with the Iran Trade Promotion Organization to hold this  conference on Europe-Iran trade and investment. The conference is funded by the European Union.

The forum will feature public presentations of three key European initiatives that aim ”to support economic relations with Iran, particularly by developing capacities for European and Iranian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to take advantage of trade opportunities.”

Whether Josep Borrell will attend the forum ‘’will be confirmed at a later stage,’’ EU foreign affairs spokesperson Peter Stano told European Jewish Press last week.

But, what has changed since December in Iran’s attitude that allows such an event to take place? The EU spokesperson stressed that the December forum was postponed by the organisers. ‘’It is for them to comment on the organisation of the event,’’ he said.

Since December, Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium in breach of the JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal, and produced  uranium metal which serves for the development of nuclear warheads. Moreover, the installing of additional and more sophisticated centrifuges were confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, all developments that can have grave consequences for the stability of Europe and the Middle East.

Earlier this month, an Iranian diplomat was convicted of a plot to bomb a big rally held by an exiled opposition group near Paris, highlighting Tehran’s terrorist activities in Europe.

Assadollah Assad, who worked at the Iranian embassy in Vienna, was given a 20-year jail term by a Belgian court.

In a letter to the Presidents of the European Council, the European Commission, and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, 22 members of the European Parliament called on EU officials, Josep Borrell, not to participate in the Europe-Iran Business Forum. Such a participation, they argue, would be highly inappropriate because of the continued flagrant human rights violations in Iran.

The 22 lawmakers (6 from Poland, 4 from Spain, 2 from Italy, 2 from Slovakia, and others from the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia, Lithuania, Czechia, France, Belgium) welcomed the cancellation of the same meeting last December following the execution of the Iranian dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam..

The MEP  called on the EU “to condition any relations with Iran, predicated on the halt to executions and torture and its malign activities abroad.”

“We, furthermore, call on the EU to take urgent action to save the lives of death row prisoners, as the executions are carried out by the Iranian authorities despite an international outcry and calls, including those of the European Parliament,” said the statement.

The MEPs pointed out that Iran has the highest rate of per capita executions in the world, and is also the world’s top executioner of women, making this “a disgrace to contemporary humanity. ”

On February 19, five British lawmakers called on UK and EU Foreign Ministers to “suspend diplomatic relations with Iran and official bilateral Ministerial visits to or from the country until the regime ends its state terrorism.”

Referring to the trial and condemnation of the Iranian diplomat in Europe, they also called on the UK and EU not to take part in the business forum with Iranian officials and warned that taking part in the meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif ‘’would be tantamount to rewarding Iran and its Foreign Minister for sponsoring terror in Europe.’’

In early February, some 40 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) wrote a letter to the assembly’s president Rik Daems and called for a complete change of behavior toward the Islamic Republic and the trial and expulsion of “intelligence mercenaries” of the regime of Iran who work under diplomatic and media cover in Europe.

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