EU-Iran business forum collapsing amid withdrawals from Europeans

“EU acquiescence of the Iranian regime’s atrocity in and outside Iran by promoting business with Iran will only worsen the regime’s behavior"

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif shakes hands with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell in Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2020 (photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif shakes hands with High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell in Tehran, Iran, February 3, 2020
(photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
The EU-Iran Business Forum slated to start on Monday is again marred by outrage over promoting commerce with a regime in Tehran that has carried out violations of the nuclear deal and widespread repression of Iranians, including a regime shooting spree of protesters in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province.
Reports emerged on Sunday that EU officials, including the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell, withdrew their participation from the controversial three day event.
“Iran has the highest rate of executions per capita. In many cases the death penalties are executed after flagrantly unfair trials marred by #torture-tainted confessions. Therefore we call on the Flag of European Union leadership to condition relations with Flag of Iran on its observance of human rights,” tweeted Anna Elzbieta Fotyga, a Polish member of the European Parliament.
 
 
Fotyga authored a public letter with other MEP’s urging Borrell and other EU officials not to participate in the event because of Iran’s regime-sponsored terror and human rights violations. The letter cited the conviction of Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi who was convicted in February by a Belgian court for planning a terror attack on an opposition rally in 2018 in France.
Prior to Borrell’s withdrawal, Xiyue Wang, an Iran scholar and the Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute ,who was taken hostage by the Iranian regime for three years, tweeted: “EU acquiescence of the Iranian regime’s atrocity in and outside Iran by promoting business with Iran will only worsen the regime’s behavior. @JosepBorrellF embodies EU’s disingenuously professed value of human rights. Shame!”
Borrell has faced criticism over the years from critics of the Islamic Republic that he is dovish toward the regime’s human rights violations and the nuclear accord.
Twitter was ablaze with criticism of the EU-Iran business from Iranians. The withdrawal of Borrell was largely attributed to Tehran’s decision not to meet with European and Americans regarding a revival of the nuclear deal according to The Wall Street Journal.
Charlie Weimers, a Swedish MEP and sharp critic of Iran’s regime, tweeted: “Strongly call for cancellation of @EUIranBizForum next week. Now is not the time! Iran continues to oppress & execute its own citizens and sponsor terrorism in Mid East & Europe. @JosepBorrellF will you engage or stand up for human rights & Europe’s security? #Boycott Mullahs.”
The organizers of the EU-Iran business forum cancelled the event in December after journalists and EU officials pulled the plug on their participation due to the regime’s execution of dissident Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam.
The Guardian journalist Patrick Wintour, who was slated to host the event in December, told Iran International at the time: “But when on Saturday the murder, or the execution of our fellow journalist [Ruhollah Zam] had been announced, it just made it very difficult for me to see how you can have a reasonable conversation purely about future relations with Iran and focusing on the economy in that context.”
He added: “Although US and EU sanctions on Iran are largely focused on Iran’s compliance with JCPOA, there is also a discussion to be had about how you could have normalized relations with Iran given its human rights records. You have to make it clear that improvement in human rights is a condition for trading with any country, and must be raised as a higher-level issue.”
The JCPOA or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal that delivered sanctions relief to Tehran in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.
The Jerusalem Post reported in 2019 that then-US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell urged one of the organizers of the EU-Iran Business Forum, Bourse & Bazaar, be sanctioned for violations of American sanctions against Iran’s regime.
Grenell referenced at the time a pro-Iran business event in Europe organized by Bourse & Bazaar saying it “sounds to me like all these people and groups should be added to the US Sanctions list. We should ensure that they don’t get to work in the US market. Iran or the US – they decide. But not both.”
Bourse & Bazaar is operated by Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, who will be speaking at the March event.
When asked about Grenell’s criticism of Batmanghelidj’s alleged sanctions busting activities, Batmanghelidj said that “ambassador Grenell is evidently unaware of the longstanding general licenses that protect the activities of Bourse & Bazaar and all media and research organizations engaged in the free exchange of information about Iran.”