EU Plays New Role in Iran Talks

Article excerpt

Although three European states have taken the lead in negotiating with Iran, the talks have also provided an unprecedented opportunity for the European Union and its various organs to engage in high-level strategic diplomacy.

The leading role has been played by the EU's most senior diplomat, Javier Solana, the high representative for Common Foreign and security Policy (CFSP). Solana, already a diplomatic heavyweight from his previous stint as secretary-general of NATO, accompanied the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom when they brokered the November 2004 Paris agreement with Tehran.

Soiana is charged with representing the collective interests of the EU member states as they are expressed by the rotating EU presidency, by heads of state at the European Council, by foreign ministers at the General Affairs and External Relations Council, or by the 25 ambassadors seated in the EU's Political and security Committee.

Solana's participation in the Paris talks, for example, was initiated by the EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council, which called for the formal inclusion of the EU in the talks. Other European nations, particularly Italy, which held the EU presidency at the time, had criticized the self-assumed role of the three largest European nations. Rome had argued that the three governments were implicitly speaking on behalf of the EU as a whole but had no clear mandate to do so.

Since last November, however, Solana has largely delegated the handling of the talks to Annalisa Giannella, his personal representative charged with overseeing the implementation of the EU's WMD strategy. Giannella reports directly both to Solana and the member states through the Political and security Committee.

Underneath Solana, Giannella, and the ambassadors of the Political and security Committee, the principal supporting work falls to the General secretariat of the Council of the European Union. …