This book was published by Middle East Political and Economic Institute and Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS), Tehran, Iran in October 2013 as the proceeding of the international conference “EU and the Middle East: Iranian viewpoints” held in Bucharest on October 23-24, 2013.
The coordinators of the book are HE Dr. Aminian BAHADOR, ambassador of IR Iran in Romania and professor of international relations, Dr. Kayhan BARZEGAR, Director, Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies, Tehran, Iran, and Flavius CABA-MARIA, President, Middle East Political and Economic Institute.
The book has the following contents
- HE Dr. Bahador AMINIAN JAZI: Introduction: European Union and the Middle East
- Seyed Kazem SAJJADPOUR: Opening Speech of the International Conference “EU and the Middle East – Iranian viewpoints”
- Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA: Opening Speech of the International Conference “EU and the Middle East – Iranian viewpoints”
- Dr. Seyed Kazem SAJJADPOUR: The Post-War Stabilization Process in Afghanistan (Notes and Opinions)
- Dr. Javad AMIN-MANSOUR: The Role of Iran in the EU Energy Security
- Dr. Kayhan BARZEGAR: Iran-Europe Relations in the Light of the Nuclear Negotiations and Regional Developments
- Dr. Seyed Vahid KARIMI: A Skeptical View: Why Europe/EU Relations with Iran are not Working?
- Dr. Kayhan BARZEGAR: Middle East Stabilization Process: Palestine (Notes and Opinions)
- Dr. Kayhan BARZEGAR: The Post-War Stabilization Process in Afghanistan (Notes and Opinions)
- Dr. Kayhan BARZEGAR: Present and Future of the Syria Crisis (Notes and Opinions)
- Ambassador Nicolae ECOBESCU: Is a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Middle East Feasible in the Foreseeable Future?
- Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA: Afghanistan, Beyond 2014: Economic Development and Governance
- Andreea-Paula IBĂNESCU: Pipeline Overture: Stances of Iran’s Energy Politics
- Cornelia ZEINEDDINE: Past, Present, and Future Raise a lot of Questions for Syria
- EURISC Foundation Team: Energy Security for the Middle East: A Critical Infrastructures and Services Protection Perspective
- Giuseppe BELARDETTI: Extremism, Terrorism, and Organized Crime
- Emiliano STORNELLI: The Peace Process in the Current Regional Context
- Emiliano STORNELLI: US and Iran Amid the Syrian Crisis
- Manuela PARAIPAN: The Silver Lining in the Israeli – Palestinian Conflict Resolution
- Cristina ALEXANDRESCU: Short Insight into Iranian-Afghan Diplomatic Relations
- Flavius CABA-MARIA & Dr. Andreea-Paula IBĂNESCU: Final Conclusions of the International Conference “EU and the Middle East – Iranian viewpoints”
Introduction: The European Union and the Middle East
HE Dr. Bahador AMINIAN JAZI, the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Romania
IN THE NAME OF GOD THE ALMIGHTY
The increasing importance of the regions and also of the regional powers is one of the significant realities of international politics in recent times. In the bipolar system, power was mainly centralized in the hands of superpowers, while the regions and the regional powers were playing a marginal role. The collapse of this system has led the regions and the regional powers out of the superpowers periphery and out of the power block, making them play an independent role in the international political arena. The Middle East is one of the main regions that, for various reasons, have gained extraordinary importance, during modern times.
Since ancient times, the Middle East has been seen as one of the most important regions of the world. This extraordinary importance is related to different perspectives, including strategic, economic, ideological, geographical, cultural, political, and security issues. Each one of these aspects could be a topic for detailed talks. At least three major axes are to be taken into consideration:
- The strategic location providing a connection to Europe, Asia, and Africa, makes this region one of the world’s communication crossroads.
- The region’s economic resources, particularly oil, transform it into an unrivaled, unmatched region.
- This region is the birthplace of three major world religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Therefore, due to its strategic importance, economic resources, and sacred places of the three world religions, the Middle East is not only the core of human issues, but it is also considered to be the heart of the international politics of today’s world.
For various reasons, the Middle East is very significant for the European Union. The important Middle East region is situated in Europe’s neighborhood. Longstanding and deep geographical, historical, cultural, economic, and political ties between Europe and the Middle East have spawned Europe’s special interest in regards to this region.
The European Union’s policy in the Middle East is generally influenced by three factors: geographical proximity, energy security, and historical memory. Considering these three factors, providing security in the above-mentioned area has become the main EU strategy. Stability is not only strengthening Europe’s security, but it is also preventing many illegal immigrants from entering the European area, and it is ensuring the process of energy transfer in the European consumer market. The European Union has defined some mechanisms for its relations with the Middle East, and these mechanisms have become the criteria of interaction with the region. The main purpose of these mechanisms is to provide the EU with status and weight in the Middle East. The point that should be mentioned here is that it is important for the EU to play a significant role in the Middle East based on the above-mentioned mechanisms. Therefore, the EU is giving priority to its own mechanisms. On this basis, the European Union is trying to match the conditions and developments in the region with its own mechanisms. The EU is not trying to match its mechanisms with the conditions in the region.
By using the situation and developments in the Middle East while strengthening its position, the EU has developed the institutional mechanisms to achieve the goals stated in contexts such as “EU – Mediterranean Cooperation”, “European Neighborhood Policy”, “EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement”. EU has also been constantly active in the Palestinian issue.
The increase of the EU members from 15 to 28 by integrating the Eastern European countries has resulted in the European Neighborhood Policy. In fact, the neighboring countries enjoy close relations with the EU, without becoming a member of it. The European Union cannot consider itself apart from its neighbors, and it cannot be indifferent to their security issues. Therefore, the security issues of these countries can be seen in various political, economic, and social aspects and also can be a challenge for the EU.
In the last years there were a couple of subjects at the top of Middle Eastern issues, which in addition to extensive regional impacts, they have significant effects on other countries and regions as well. Europe has also placed them among their regional priorities. Nowadays, Europe has included among its priorities and besides the longstanding issue of Palestine, problems such as extremism and terrorism, the Syrian issue, the issue of Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear file and the negotiations between Iran and the E3 + 3 (Britain, France, and Germany + Russia, China and the United States), as well as the energy security issue. These issues are directly affecting European society, economy, and security. There are numerous issues that, in many cases, are intertwined and interact with each other. This fact has made them become very complex and multi-layered, and interacting with them must be done by taking into consideration their complexity and multi-layered character.
Given the international developments and the fact that in the current international system, the regional powers have gained special importance and position, it is a global political necessity to take into consideration the role of regional powers in order to analyze the international issues and to solve regional and global problems. Iran, as a strong and independent country that is one of the few democracies in the region, due to its long-standing, direct and continuous relationship with the realities of the Middle East, as well as to its pursuit of fundamental principles and perspectives, and particularly due to its the fundamental link to the people of the region, not only can it influence the region, but it can also be a reliable source of knowledge about the complex regional issues and the approaches between the actors.
Due to political reasons in the past years, the European countries did not have an extensive relationship with Iran. In some cases, due to the lack of proper connection with the realities in the region, the incorrect and faulty perceptions of Europeans have led to wrong policies, which not only have deprived the European countries of exploiting the existing opportunities but also have strengthened the serious threats against Europe. Nowadays, after remarkable developments in the domestic, regional, and international situation of Iran, it is a good time to evaluate and analyze the Middle Eastern issues through Iran’s perspective. Each one of the Middle Eastern issues has a wide impact on Europe, and it can generate opportunities for the EU, as well as wide threats.
In order to clarify the main Middle Eastern issues and also to present Iran’s perspectives, in 2013 there was a conference with the participation of Iranian and European experts held in Bucharest. The regional issues have been reviewed in six independent panels. It is hoped that the topics discussed in these meetings can help clarify the complex regional issues and Iran’s viewpoints on these issues, so that the European analysts and decision-makers can watch through the regional influential window of Iran’s logic and principles about regional issues, and thus be able to understand the regional intricate issues more deeply and in a more updated manner. A more realistic understanding can prevent inconsistent and inappropriate policies, and can also help clarify the opportunities and their resulting options, by creating the proper environment for the prevention of existing threats in this complex area.
Opening speech of the International Conference “EU and the Middle East – Iranian viewpoints”
Dr. Seyed Kazem SAJJADPOUR, Strategy Adviser to Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Islamic Republic of Iran
I would like to thank all the participants and foremost our Romanian partners, it is the first time for me to be in Romania and I am impressed.
I think the main objectives of such gatherings should be three, let`s say, specific issues: firstly, to understand, I think understanding is the key for policy orientation, formulation, and implementation and I think you can understand how the Middle East is, how the European Union (EU) is, and how the fractions between these two entities are and I think this could really help. The second aspect is to get the human touch. When you read about Iran and when you see an Iranian, when I hear about Romania, about you as Romanians or Europeans, I think reading and seeing are different. The internet and, generally, cyber activities, create a kind of artificial human touch. When you make contact with a person, you create the real human touch and I think this is a very important aspect of our gathering, making contact. Finally, the third and final goal is expanding spaces. You are here not only for yourselves, for Romania or Iran; you are here for the EU and the Middle East, not only to make individual ties but to better and wholly interrelate. And I think this is the most important aspect, that we have the opportunity to expand the relationships and the cooperation between Iran and the EU, in general, and Iran and Romania, in particular. And I believe this is a particular policy issue – real change is a very important and real improvement – and I hope the outcome of this gathering will result in an improved relationship and better human ties. There is no need to say that the Middle East is at the time being in a very critical situation and transition, it represents the most challenging part in the world in terms of crisis, in terms of transitions, and we must take into consideration that the Middle East is the neighbor of the EU. I think this aspect is very important to take into account, namely that the Middle East is the largest neighbor of the EU. Furthermore, Iran in the Middle East has a huge role, both geographically and politically, and not because I am personally an Iranian, of course, that for every Iranian or Romanian one’s country is the most important one, but beyond this emotional touch we must say that Iran in the Middle East occupies a significant place, culturally and strategically also, and I am proud to say that Iran has a very strong political system that can produce a worthy example for a peaceful change of power in Syria. We had some elections, great by all standards, just a few months ago, and there was a transitional power, an executive power, and there were debates, high participation, in a region dominated by unrest. With the Syrian instability and the military strikes in the background, these elections gave Iranian society confidence and I think this transition of power and the example of good elections need to be carefully followed and observed, it is a concept to understand and to be notified. I further believe this event is a great opportunity for opening up the way for cooperation between Iran and the international community, and I think everybody knows that the new administration is very eager to mend all the problems and tensions in its relationships with all the members of the so-called human community. I consider, in this regard, the last 2 months of Iranian policy have been a very important time, very close to the European 3+3 (Britain, France, and Germany/Russia, China and the United States) or as we like to call it the P 5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). In accordance with Geneva talks and our foreign minister concerning further meetings, we are open to more cooperation and transparency and I hope this conference would be a step forward for this entire process, therefore I thank the organizers for inviting me to these talks.
About the author:
HE Dr. Aminian BAHADOR, ambassador of IR Iran in Romania and professor of international relations; Dr. Kayhan BARZEGAR, Director, the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies (IMESS), Tehran, Iran; Mr. Flavius CABA-MARIA, President, the Middle East Political and Economic Institute.