How the EU can retain its reason to exist

A diplomatic meeting of crucial importance for the future of the European Union (EU) as a political entity was held in Brussels on Tuesday (yesterday). The High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, met the Foreign Ministers of Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

These three powers were signatories, on behalf of Europe, of the international agreement of 14 July 2015 on Iran’s nuclear power. The Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs was invited to join the second part of the Brussels meeting.

Negotiated for nearly ten years, this agreement, whose exact name is JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), allows Persia to become a great commercial power (thanks to the suspension of international sanctions directed against it), in exchange for its renunciation of ambitions to become a nuclear power. Mogherini said on May 11 2018 that the EU was “determined to preserve” the JCPOA, which it rightly called “one of the greatest achievements ever made by diplomacy”.

Despite the considerable work that US Secretary of State John Kerry had done to secure the agreement to stop nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, Donald Trump decided to tear it up. The solemn address on May 8, of the President of the United States to announce the withdrawal from the JCPOA and the reinstatement of their embargos against Iran, will remain in diplomatic history for two reasons:

  1. His accumulation of factual inaccuracies;
  2. The denial of its signature by a great power, formerly a founder of the UN and which had endorsed the JCPOA in the form of a resolution of the Security Council.

What is America’s international commitment worth if it can be torn up at any time depending on the change of tenant in the White House? Opposed to the 1957 Treaty of Rome, Charles de Gaulle returned to business in 1958. It was a point of honour for the Sstate to fulfill all its obligations under the European Treaty in advance, because what was at stake was respect for the signature of France.

At their May 15 meeting, the three ministers faced two challenges. The first, immediate, is to save the JCPOA, to prevent the recovery by Iran of its uranium enrichment activities, and its possible exit from the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968). In this task they will find support from Russia and China, co-signers with them of the JCPOA.

The second challenge is even more difficult. Europeans will have to find a way to protect their companies from US sanctions. John Bolton, Donald Trump’s new National Security Advisor, said he would not hesitate to sanction European companies that would continue to invest or trade in Iran, in strategic areas defined by Washington.

On May 10, Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador to Berlin, publicly tweeted: “German companies doing business in Iran must immediately withdraw!” The Germans thought they had regained full sovereignty more than a generation ago. They now realise that this is not an international reality for everyone …

The White House threatens to punish European companies that are only implementing a UN Security Council resolution, adopted unanimously three years ago. We think we dream!

What can Europeans do with such arrogance? In the short term, they can activate a November 1996 Regulation of the Council of the European Communities – nicknamed “Blocking Regulations” – which prohibits any European natural or legal person to submit to administrative, legislative or judicial acts decided by a foreign power. This will reassure European SMEs a little, but not the big companies, which have too many interests at stake in the United States.

In the medium term, the Europeans can dissuade the Americans from following through, promising that any punishment on their part will be the subject of reprisals of the same magnitude.

In the long run, Europeans will have to prepare to trade only in euros. BNP was fined $9 billion in 2016 on the pretext of using dollars to finance trade with countries under a US embargo. Since the final clearing took place in the United States (on behalf of BNP in New York), it was “normal” for US law to apply to the entire transaction …

On the occasion of this unheard-of American diktat, will the Europeans recover their independence? This is the test of truth for the political side of the EU. If she submits to Trump, she will lose all reasons to exist.

This article was first published in Le Figaro

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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