Sist helg fei­ret EU sine 50 år med en dekla­ra­sjon med mange store ord. Mange lurer på hvor­for euro­pe­ere er så lunkne til EU. Men nå sit­ter 15 bri­ter som fan­ger i Iran, og det er såvidt bri­tene lurer på om de tør spørre Tysk­land, Frank­rike og Ita­lia om de vil sus­pen­dere regje­rings­ga­ran­ti­ene som Iran nyter godt av.

Timo­thy Gar­ton Ash reiser det høyst beret­ti­gede spørs­mål: hvor er den euro­pe­iske soli­da­ri­te­ten? EU-lan­dene kan nem­lig gjøre noe kon­kret og effek­tivt: sus­pen­dere, eller true med å fjerne regje­rings­ga­ran­ti­ene for eks­port til Iran. De er for­mi­dable.

But there is somet­hing Europe should do: flex its eco­no­mic mus­cles. The EU is by far Iran’s biggest tra­ding part­ner. More than 40% of its imports come from, and more than a quar­ter of its exports go to, the EU. Remar­kably, this trade has grown strongly in the last years of loom­ing cri­sis. Much of it is under­pin­ned by export credit gua­rantees given by Euro­pean govern­ments, notably those of Ger­many, France and Italy. Accor­ding to the most recent figu­res avai­lable from the Ger­man eco­no­mics mini­s­try, Iran is Germany’s third-largest bene­fi­ci­ary of export credit gua­rantees, out­done only by Rus­sia and China. Iran comes second to none in terms of the pro­portion of Ger­man exports – in recent years up to 65% – under­writ­ten by the Ger­man govern­ment.


The total govern­ment under­wri­ting com­mit­ment in 2005 was €5.8bn (£3.9bn), more than for Rus­sia or China. As the sque­eze grows on Iran from UN sanc­tions and their knock-on effects, and as Pre­si­dent Mahmoud Ahma­dine­jad fails to deli­ver on his popu­list eco­no­mic pro­mi­ses, this Euro­pean trade becomes ever more vital for the Ira­nian regime – and ever more depen­dent on Euro­pean govern­ment gua­rantees to coun­ter­ba­lance the growing poli­ti­cal risk.

In the Com­mons yester­day a for­mer for­eign secre­tary, Mal­colm Rifkind, asked if Britain’s Euro­pean fri­ends – and Ger­many, France and Italy in par­ti­cu­lar – might be pre­vai­led upon to con­vey to Iran, per­haps pri­vat­ely in the first instance, the pos­si­bi­lity that such export credit gua­rantees would be tem­po­ra­rily sus­pen­ded until the kid­na­pped Euro­pe­ans are freed. I gat­her that if such pri­vate pres­sure is not forthcoming, Bri­tain might be temp­ted to raise the sugge­stion more for­mally at a meeting of Euro­pean for­eign minis­ters in Bre­men this week­end.

So here’s a chal­lenge for the Ger­man pre­si­dency of the Euro­pean Union: will you put your money where your mouth is? Or are all your Sun­day speeches about Euro­pean soli­darity in the cause of peace and free­dom not even worth the paper they are writ­ten on?

Så lenge EU ikke står opp for hver­andre i slike kri­tiske situa­sjo­ner, for­blir EU-reto­rik­ken tomt prat. 

Faced with Ira­nian black­mail, Europe must show real soli­darity

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