Letter to Josep Borrell concerning the case of Johan Floderus and other EU citizens held hostage in Iran
Dear Mr. Borrell,
According to a report by the New York Times this week, a Swedish national who is employed by the European External Action Service was apprehended in Iran in April 2022 while on a tourist trip and has since been imprisoned there on “espionage charges.”
As far as we understand, neither the Foreign Affairs Council nor members of the European Parliament, let alone the wider European public, were informed by you or your services of this case. They learned from it from the newspaper.
While we understand the sensitive nature of the issue of EU citizens being held hostage, we do not comprehend why the European Union and you as the HRVP have not made stronger efforts to secure their release, for example by attempting to pool the resources of the 27 EU member states, by creating a dedicated hostage taskforce to coordinate any negotiations with third countries, or at the very least by defining a joint EU strategy for any such negotiations.
In light of the EU Treaty, in particular Article 24 which stipulates that in the area of the common foreign and security policy “the Member States shall work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity” and “refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations”, we would like to put the following six questions to you, which we believe are of the utmost interest to the European public and in particular the family members of hostages:
1. What have you been doing to secure the release of European hostages held in and by the Islamic Republic of Iran?
2. Why has the EU so far not instituted a common approach to information-sharing or defined a common strategy to secure the release of EU citizens held hostage in and by third countries?
3. Why is information regarding European hostages held in third countries not shared between EU member states?
4. If the reports are true that an EU official who works for the EEAS is being held by Iran, why did you and the EEAS not immediately change your stance vis-à-vis the Iranian regime and demand his immediate and unconditional release and that of other EU hostages before continuing any negotiations on the nuclear programme or any other important files?
5. Considering that the total trade in goods between the EU and Iran amounted to €5.2 billion in 2022, do you consider that economic sanctions should be imposed on Iran in light of the regime’s recent actions, and that the EU should pursue a policy of curbing EU-Iran trade until such time as the regime in Tehran ceases its hostile acts?
6. Iran’s foreign minister has said that a so-called ‘September Document’ has been agreed between the signatories to the JCPOA. Will the release of all EU citizens unlawfully detained in Iran, including so-called dual nationals, be part of that document?
We thank you for the attention you give to this letter and would be most grateful if you could share your answers with us at your earliest convenience.
The letter was co-signed by five members of the European Parliament: Dietmar Köster, Frédérique Ries, Andreas Schieder, Hilde Vautmans and Witold Jan Waszczykowski.
Below is the full reply to the letter of EU Watch from the head of the Iran Division at EEAS
Dear Mr. Thaidigsmann,
Thank you for your letter of March 31 addressed to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HRVP).
The increasing number of EU and dual EU-Iranian citizens detained in Iran is a matter of serious concerns. This is clearly indicated in the Council Conclusions adopted last December, outlining the EU’s policy approach towards Iran and which you referred to. Before answering your questions, allow me to recall that under EU and international law, EU Member States have primary responsibilities on their respective consular cases. As a result, the EU provides all the support the EU Member States concerned need to complement their consular efforts.
Turning now to your questions:
-The HRVP and his services are in constant coordination with EU Member States with active consular cases and use their direct channels with the Iranian authorities to facilitate the release of EU and dual EU citizens held on spurious grounds. On 20 February 2023, the HRVP issued a statement on behalf of the EU calling upon Iran to end the distressing practice of detaining foreign civilians with a view to making political gains.
-As part of the close coordination with EU Member State with active consular cases, it is common for the HRVP and his team to be in touch with some of the families concerned.
-As part of its comprehensive policy approach, as outlined in the Council Conclusions of December 2022, the EU will continue to respond to developments in Iran by taking into account all tools at its disposal, including further restrictive measures. Of note, the Foreign Affairs Council has been addressing situation in Iran in every single session since October and adopted 7 consecutive rounds of sanctions for human rights violations.
-The EU has listed the IRGC under several EU sanctions regimes, either in its entirety or individuals/entities of the IRGC.
Dr. Bruno Scholl
Head of the EEAS Iran Division