The European Union's role in brokering the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action: A process tracing analysis of the negotiations with Iran between 2010 and 2015

Inge Hannon
Deze masterproef bevat een analyse van de bemiddelingsrol die de Europese Unie heeft gespeeld tijdens de onderhandelingen van de nucleaire deal met Iran. In het eerste luik wordt het onderhandelingsproces tussen 2010 en 2015 beschreven. Het tweede luik onderzoekt de beïnvloedende factoren die de EU hinderden of hielpen tijdens dit proces.

De Europese Unie als bemiddelaar in diplomatieke conflicten: nieuw perspectief of ijdele hoop?

Vaak wordt de Europese Unie afgeschilderd als economisch sterk, maar politiek en militair erg zwak. De Unie loopt politiek mank door een waaier aan interne crisissen zoals de vluchtelingencrisis en (jongeren)werkloosheid. Het zou u dan ook vergeven worden mocht u ervan uitgaan dat zo’n intern verdeelde organisatie onmogelijk een betekenisvolle rol kan spelen op internationaal vlak. Maar is dat wel zo? Vrijwel volledig onder de radar heeft de EU een cruciale rol gespeeld in één van de belangrijkste diplomatieke akkoorden uit de recente geschiedenis: de nucleaire deal met Iran. Deze deal bracht na meer dan een decennium van spanningen en onderhandelingen een eind aan het dubieuze karakter van het Iraanse nucleaire programma en aan de internationale sancties tegen Iran. De EU kan er blijkbaar toch nog wat van. Of niet?

De EU als bemiddelaar

In de onderhandelingen met Iran trad de EU niet op als hoofdrolspeler, maar wel als bemiddelaar tussen Iran en de internationale gemeenschap (lees: de Verenigde Staten). Ze deed dit met succes, want op 14 juli 2015 werd een historische deal ondertekend. Hierin ging Iran akkoord met beperkingen op haar nucleair programma in ruil voor het beëindigen van de internationale sancties die haar economie zwaar hadden getroffen. Deze deal is op zich al historisch, want de spanningen over een eventuele Iraanse nucleaire bom hadden even goed nog maar eens een oorlog in de regio kunnen ontketenen. Voor de EU zelf is dit akkoord echter ook van groot belang. Ze heeft immers bewezen een talentvolle bemiddelaar te zijn in een conflict dat al jaren aansleepte. Als we begrijpen hoe en waarom de EU deze rol heeft kunnen spelen, kunnen we ook bekijken of de EU als bemiddelaar zou kunnen optreden in andere oude conflicten zoals dat tussen Israël en Palestina of op het Koreaanse schiereiland.

De Iran deal: de feiten

Belangrijke diplomatieke onderhandelingen verlopen altijd in een sfeer van geheimhouding. Toch is het mogelijk om de grote lijnen van de onderhandelingen uiteen te zetten. In 2002 kwamen geheime nucleaire activiteiten in Iran aan het licht. In de internationale gemeenschap, met de VS op kop, ontketende dit grote ongerustheid over een mogelijk nucleair wapen in de handen van een autoritair regime. De Europese Unie was al snel betrokken bij het onderhandelen van een akkoord. Tevergeefs: het Iraans nucleair programma groeide en tussen 2006 en 2010 werden er verschillende internationale sancties tegen het land afgekondigd.

In 2010 kreeg de EU er een nieuwe functie bij. De nieuwe Hoge Vertegenwoordiger, ook wel de Europese Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken genoemd, zou vanaf nu de onderhandelingen leiden. Gezien de spanningen, die al jaren opliepen, was dit niet vanzelfsprekend. Vooral omdat het Iraans programma gevaarlijk snel vorderingen maakte, maar ook omdat de Iraniërs weinig enthousiasme toonden voor diplomatieke onderhandelingen, besloot de EU om in 2012 alle olie-import uit het land stop te zetten. Dit olie-embargo heeft de Iraanse economie zwaar getroffen. De bevolking eiste dan ook economische hervormingen en in 2013 verkozen ze Rouhani als president. Deze doorgewinterde politicus besefte dat de sancties enkel konden worden opgeheven als hij met de EU en de VS aan de onderhandelingstafel ging zitten.

De verkiezing van Rouhani was een kantelmoment in het proces, omdat de Iraniërs eindelijk bereid waren om te praten. Terwijl de EU voordien weinig anders kon doen dan economische druk uitoefenen, slaagde ze er vanaf 2013 in om haar diplomatieke troeven uit te spelen en volop haar rol als bemiddelaar op zich te nemen. De Hoge Vertegenwoordiger en haar team leidden alle ontmoetingen tussen Iran en de VS. Al in november 2013 bereikten ze een tijdelijk akkoord, dat de brede lijnen voor de uiteindelijke deal bevatte. De EU diplomaten waren ook degenen die de definitieve tekst van het akkoord hebben neergepend, aangezien ze de standpunten van alle onderhandelingspartijen kenden. Zo speelde de EU een onmisbare rol in het bereiken van de nucleaire deal.

Europese troeven ... en tekortkomingen

Na afloop van de onderhandelingen kreeg het Europees diplomatiek team veel lof, onder andere van de Amerikaanse Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken John Kerry. De kwaliteit van het team vol ervaren onderhandelaars was zeer hoog. Dit team is dan ook de grootste troef van de Europese Unie. Daarenboven had de EU altijd relatief goede banden onderhouden met zowel Iran als de VS. Het vertrouwen dat ze hierdoor van beide partijen genoot, speelde een belangrijke rol in het succesvol bemiddelen. De EU bezit dus de cruciale combinatie van vertrouwen en talent. Op zich lijkt de EU dan ook erg geschikt als internationaal bemiddelaar.

Helaas betekent het bezitten van een troef niet meteen dat je deze ook kan uitspelen. Al sinds 2010 heeft de EU een uitgebreid team van diplomaten en onderhandelaars. Toch duurde het tot 2013 voor dit team zijn werk écht kon doen. Per definitie ben je als bemiddelaar afhankelijk van de bereidwilligheid van de conflictpartijen om te onderhandelen. De Amerikanen waren al langer bereid, maar de Iraniërs kwamen pas na de verkiezing van Rouhani met een positieve attitude aan de onderhandelingstafel. Naast deze externe factor, speelt ook interne cohesie een belangrijke rol. In dit geval waren alle lidstaten van de EU het eens over het te bereiken doel: Iran mocht geen nucleair wapen in handen krijgen en het conflict moest op een vredevolle manier opgelost worden, via de diplomatieke weg. Het is echter geen geheim dat een gemeenschappelijk standpunt in de EU niet altijd zo makkelijk bereikt wordt.

De Iran deal heeft dus bewezen dat de EU de capaciteiten bezit om als bemiddelaar in internationale conflicten op te treden. Interne meningsverschillen en conflictpartijen die niet willen onderhandelen, kunnen echter belangrijke beperkingen vormen op de mogelijkheid om deze capaciteiten ook effectief te benutten. Deze beperkingen zorgen er dan ook voor dat de EU niet meteen deze rol opnieuw kan opnemen in een ander conflict. De Iran deal was dus zeker een diplomatiek succes voor de EU, maar heeft niet meteen de deur geopend naar nieuwe opportuniteiten.

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master of Science in de EU Studies
Publicatiejaar
2016
Promotor(en)
Prof. Dr. Hendrik Vos
Kernwoorden
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