Economy, Business And Markets

Croatia Could Link Iran to European Union

Croatia Could Link Iran to European UnionCroatia Could Link Iran to European Union

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic’s three-day visit to Tehran is bound to deepen not only Iran-Croatia ties but also Iran-EU relations, given Croatia’s EU status since 2013.

Croatia was thus referred to as Iran’s “gateway” to Europe by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, reads an op-ed published in US-based think tank Eurasia Review.

Although the tiny Croatia lacks significant economic and diplomatic weight compared to the EU heavies such as Germany, France, and Italy, its president’s new Iran initiative, reflected in a number of trade and non-trade agreements signed during Grabar-Kitarovic’s visit, carries high diplomatic and symbolic significance and is bound to encourage other European countries to follow suit.

Already, a number of other European leaders, e.g. from Italy, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, France, etc., have visited Iran since the 2015 agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

However, the visits have not managed to bring about a significant breakthrough in the banking stalemate that has plagued that agreement due to the lingering US sanctions.

Slowly but surely, however, Iran is counting on the “law of intensifying pressure” from the margins, by establishing good rapport with the smaller EU countries as a prelude for more substantive connections with the larger EU economies in the near future.

Europe, which has much economic interest at stake, compared to the US, must do what it can to help the survivability of JCPOA, by making initiatives and even taking some small risks, in order to reintegrate Iran in the world economy; otherwise the EU’s economic interests will suffer as well.

On the positive side, the Croatian president’s Iran trip is yet another fresh reminder that Iran and Europe have great potential for expansion of economic ties, in light of the agreements between Iran and Croatia in the various fields of energy, transportation, foodstuff, machinery, medicine, sewage, power plants, etc., reflecting a healthy new beginning in bilateral relations.

The Croatian president conferred with her Iranian counterpart on terrorism and security matters as well, indicating yet another dimension for bilateral cooperation.

Pointing at the significance of her trip as the “first female European leader to visit Iran”, President Kitarovic added the gender dimension, which is significant in terms of motivating other female European leaders, above all Germany’s Angela Merkel, to set aside their hesitations and visit Iran soon.

Germany has so far lagged behind other European powers in making such initiatives, perhaps due to other pressing priorities, such as the issues of refugees and Russia. But, since Germany is interested in exploiting the post-nuclear deal business opportunities with Iran, it makes no sense to put a Tehran visit to the back-burner indefinitely.

Indeed, the catalytic importance of President Kitarovic’s visit may be in the area of paving the way for such diplomatic initiatives by other European powers.