The EU and Iran

How a critical relationship became a troubled one

Authored by: Cornelius Adebahr , Riccardo Alcaro

Routledge Handbook of EU–Middle East Relations

Print publication date:  December  2021
Online publication date:  December  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367330767
eBook ISBN: 9780429317873
Adobe ISBN:


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Europe’s relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran has historically oscillated between estrangement and limited engagement. After a long hiatus brought about by the 1979 anti-Shah revolution and the war with Iraq, Iran re-entered Europe’s radar screens in the early 1990s. The end of the Cold War and the US-led war against Iraq in 1991 created the conditions for attempting a diplomatic re-engagement of Iran. The newly born EU provided a multilateral framework through which European countries could coordinate their policy. The outbreak of the nuclear crisis in the early 2000s seemed to put an end to a re-engagement policy that had never gained traction. Yet, Europe’s effort to find a diplomatic solution to the dispute involved that contacts were never severed and, when a deal was finally struck in 2015, the prospect of a constructive EU–Iran relationship was more real than it had ever been. Due to the US decision to abandon the nuclear agreement, that prospect has now receded, and EU–Iran relations hang again in the balance.

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