Janša from Slovenia “does not represent” the EU in Iran – POLITICO
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša could take the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, but he “does not represent” the EU in foreign policy, the bloc’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said on Monday in reaction to comments from Janša who sparked tensions with Iran.
Borrell’s unusual statement to reporters came after Janša on Saturday called for an international investigation into the 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners. These murders led to at least 2000 dead, according to Amnesty International, some observers estimate the number to be much higher.
Janša’s comments, made in a video address to the annual World Summit on Free Iran hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, also referred to Amnesty International’s requests to investigate Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi over his alleged involvement in the executions. “For nearly 33 years, the world had forgotten the victims of the massacre. This should change, ”Jansa said in her speech.
The speech sparked a strong reaction from Tehran, with a spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry condemning the remarks as “unacceptable, contrary to diplomatic standards and spirit,” according to media reports.
The diplomatic dusting highlights the EU’s growing struggles with the controversial Slovenian leader’s current leading role within the bloc after Slovenia assumed the rotating EU presidency in early July. It also served as a reminder of the messy messaging that accompanies the multiple layers of EU leadership and representation, sometimes leaving it difficult to know who speaks for the bloc as a whole.
Asked about the tense exchanges at a press conference following an EU Foreign Council in Brussels on Monday, Borrell said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called him on Sunday to ask him “whether the statements of the Slovenian Prime Minister represent the official position of the European Union, given that there had been some confusion linked to the fact that Slovenia is currently the country which holds the rotating Presidency of the Council.
The EU’s foreign policy representative told Zarif that “in our institutional framework, the position of a Prime Minister – even if he comes from the country which holds the rotating presidency of the Council – does not represent the position of the European Union”.
Borrell argued that only the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, could represent the EU at the level of heads of state and government.
He added: “Foreign policy remains a competence of [EU] Member States and each Member State may have the opinion it deems appropriate for each question of international policy. … For me it is only to say if this position [by Janša] … Represents the European Union. And it certainly is not. “
Borrell further stated that the EU has “a balanced position” on Iran “which exerts political pressure when deemed necessary, in many areas, and at the same time seeks cooperation when necessary.”
Several EU member states – with EU support – are currently trying to help resuscitate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, for example.
“I have nothing to say about the views of the Slovenian Prime Minister,” Borrell said. “It is his responsibility, but he does not represent the European Union.
A spokesperson for the Slovenian representation to the EU said that “Slovenia has no intention of getting involved in Iran’s internal affairs”, but added that the country “still stands up for the human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is in line with our values and our legislation.
The spokesperson noted that Borrell “has already made it clear that statements made [by Janša] had not been on behalf of the EU.
David Herszenhorn contributed reporting.