For those of you who missed it, the EU was awarded the Nobel Prize last week. Many raised an eyebrow or two.
The Norwegian prize committee said the EU was being honored for six decades of contributions “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”
What about democracy and human rights in those countries with whom the EU has ties; economic, political and cultural?
Well, as this week commenced, we must give credit where credit is due. New, broader, biting sanctions have been introduced by the EU against the Iranian regime. In this BBC article, we read that as part of the new sanctions:
“There will be a ban on short-term export credits, guarantees and insurance. Medium- and long-term commitments are already banned.
The ministers also prohibited the export to Iran of further materials relevant to the Iranian nuclear and ballistic programmes or to industries controlled by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), including graphite, raw or semi-finished metals such as aluminium and steel, as well as software for integrating industrial processes.
The Council prohibited all transactions between European and Iranian banks, unless they are explicitly authorised by national authorities under strict conditions.”
The EU leadership also took the moral high road by bolstering sanctions in the area of human rights, leading to a decision by the French satellite provider EUTELSAT to block reception of Iranian propaganda channels in the EU. http://www.spacenews.com/commentaries/121015-fromwires-block-iranian-broadcasts.html
The new measures are expected to enjoy strong public backing, as reflected in a recent Pew Poll showing that in France, Britain, Germany (and the U.S.) there is strong support – over 70% – for tougher economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran. (It is, however, a shame that after a week of bashing sanctions – see my previous post – too few media outlets picked up this poll.)
But consistency remains the EU’s weak spot.
For once, it is the Huffington Post whom we can thank for pointing out that elected officials of the new Nobel Laureate have some serious recalibrating to do of their own moral compass. For in this same week as the human-rights seeking EU is awarded the Nobel Prize, its own parliament “is planning to send a delegation to Tehran. The trip, scheduled for the end of this month, was confirmed by the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran just before summer.”
As Abas Razai tells us on his Huff Post blog.
This is not the first time that the EU’s legislative branch has planned such a trip. Razai reminds us what happened to the last attempts:
“The first attempt in 2009 failed due to the “unfavourable political climate” created by the fraudulent presidential elections hijacked by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
In September 2010, the parliament authorised a delegation to Tehran, conditioned partly on lifting the death penalty on an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning for alleged adultery. That condition was not met and the proposed delegation therefore did not travel.
The Delegation made a third attempt In October 2011 but was faced with public outrage which prompted cancellation of the trip at the last minute.
Several people were hanged in public during the last trip by a European parliamentary delegation to Iran in 2007. The trip was hailed by the Iranian media.”
To remind those who still think the EU should still give this Iran trip another try… Rezai does not hold his punches:
“The latest Year Report by Amnesty International, counts 634 executions carried out in Iran during 2011. That puts Iran to world’s number one executioner state, per capita. The number of public executions in Iran quadrupled compared to the previous year.
Another report by Amnesty International says at least 143 children were on death row in Iranian prisons, waiting to go to the gallows when they reach 18.”
The European Parliament also passed a resolution calling to open an office in Tehran – while Canada was making brave decisions and ousting Iranian diplomats (see my previous blog post).
The EU is not just struggling with the consistency of its politicians: European diplomatic representatives happily sat in and listened to President Ahmadinejad’s drivel at the UN last month, while other countries – in keeping with their moral compass – staged a symbolic walkout. The German and Swedish foreign ministers even went out of their way to meet with their Iranian counterpart.
The Daily Telegraph and many others heavily criticized the decision to grant the EU with this lucrative prize. This seems a bit unfair: It’s not perfect, no political entity is. The trick is to learn from previous mistakes. When it comes to confronting Iran, EU governments and their publics have come a long way. But the nuclear crisis is far from over, and the media would do well by showing a little more vigilance in reporting those cases in which Europe continues to shoot itself in the foot.