TEHRAN, May 30 (Press Shia) – Speaking to Mehr News, Polish Ambassador to Tehran Jaroslaw Marcin Domanski dismissed reports on Poland’s break with EU on Iran nuclear deal, stressing that his country has fully subscribed to the EU declaration on preserving the JCPOA in the aftermath of US pullout.
Western media have been reporting on Poland’s deviation from the official EU stance on expressing full support for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal whose fate has been hinging on EU’s ability to provide Iran with “solid guarantees” that the agreement would continue to serve Iran’s economic interests in the wake of US withdrawal and renewed sanctions.
Speaking to Mehr News Agency in an exclusive interview, Polish Ambassador to Tehran Jaroslaw Marcin Domanski dismissed the reports, saying his country, along with the rest of EU Member States, are fully committed to preserving the JCPOA.
This comes as EU leaders gathered on May 16 in Bulgaria, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, to declare their unanimous support for the Iran nuclear deal and put into effect a number of measures, including the ‘blocking statute’, that would protect European companies doing business with Iran from the US extraterritorial sanctions.
The ambassador also dismissed reports on suspension of a gas project in Iran by Poland’s major gas firm PGNiG, saying the embassy is in contact with the PGNiG office in Tehran and the office is operating normally; “This is a very serious project to us … [because] it responds to the policy of the Republic of Poland on energy diversification,” Mr. Domanski stressed.
“I think that as far as the objectives of the JCPOA are concerned, while keeping our alliance we disagree [with our American partners],” said the ambassador, adding that despite certain differences there is a unity among the 28 EU Member States on preserving the JCPOA.
“This unanimous support among the leaders of 28 Member States of the European Union is not always the case,” he said.
The following is the full text of Mr. Domanski’s exclusive interview with Mehr News:
EU says it is going to reactivate the blocking statute, a 1996 law that would allow the bloc to shield European companies doing business with Iran from US extraterritorial sanctions. Is this measure, if put into effect, enough to save the Iran nuclear deal and protect the sides’ economic interests?
First of all, let me tell you that there is full unity within the European Union on preserving the JCPOA. We had a very important summit on May 16 in Sofia, Bulgaria, attended by the heads of states and governments of all the 28 EU Member States. During the summit, the Iranian issue and the JCPOA was number one on the agenda and all the leaders unanimously agreed on the importance of the JCPOA, on doing everything possible to preserve the deal, and on the measures which the EU has decided to adopt as a response to the Iranian request to a) protect the companies, and b) to do all possible to preserve the full implementation of the JCPOA as long as Iran implements its commitments. According to all 10 reports published by the IAEA so far, it is clear that Iran has been fulfilling its commitments. Therefore, the EU agreed to do everything possible to fulfil ours. So in this respect, certain measures have been promised; not yet adopted, but promised, because the process takes time.
The political deceleration of the summit, and the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker – to which Poland fully subscribes – is that the formal process to activate the blocking statute has been launched and the aim is to have that measure in practice before the 6th of August, when the first batch of US sanctions will take effect. This will require some work at the EU-level in Brussels, but it will also require some legislative work at the EU Member States’ level. So all countries including Poland will have to do some legislative work in order to make this blocking statute operational.
What other plans does Poland, in particular, have in mind to protect Polish companies from US sanctions and prevent them from abandoning Iran’s projects?
The EU summit in Sofia proposed other measures in addition to the blocking statute to preserve the interests of European companies investing in Iran and show its commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. One such measure, which the heads of the EU governments agreed upon, is to launch a formal process to remove obstacles for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance EU investment in Iran. The first steps have been made, and the next more technical ones will be made by the 6th of August. There is a strong political will from all the 28 heads of states and governments to activate this mechanism. This mechanism also foresees the guarantees for the European companies which are investing in Iran.
Another measure involves sectoral cooperation, such as in the energy sector, development of energy efficiency in Iran, development of renewable technologies, development of health, with regard to small and medium-sized enterprises. That’s why Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, came to Iran with a group of experts dealing with energy, and he brought some proposals in these areas, which Iran could potentially adopt and we believe that it will do so.
Another important issue on which we will be working is related to the guarantee for bank transfers to the Central Bank of Iran, which is not restricted to oil-related revenues. Here, the heads of states and governments mandated the institutions, including the Commission, but also to certain extents, the Member States, to look for a possibility to guarantee bank transfers through the European central banks and the central bank of Iran.
This situation requires non-standard solutions. We have not encountered before such a complicated situation. So certain measures which we are planning and willing to implement have not been implemented in the past; but there is a strong will to go forward. We know that what is important for Iran is to ensure the export of oil and we are fully committed to continue importing the Iranian oil. Given the new circumstances, we just need to find some mechanisms to protect all companies on the one hand, and ensure the bank transfers on the other.
How optimistic are you, personally, about the effectiveness of all these measures you mentioned, to save the JCPOA and continue to serve the economic interests of both sides?
Of course as a diplomat I am optimistic. I assure you that we are doing everything possible. That unanimous support among the leaders of 28 Member States of the European Union is not always the case. We are 28 countries and sometimes we have different views, but on preserving the JCPOA there is full unanimity among us. The EU Member States are fully committed to preserve the deal. We proposed what we were able to do in the short term period in order to ensure that all companies and the security of businesses and investments are protected. It may sometimes look that [the measures] are insufficient, but we are doing everything possible and we are fully committed. So yes, I am optimistic, but then again, certain things depend not only on us, but other factors as well.
While EU leaders have vowed to protect the companies from US sanctions, the companies do not feel too much reassured; there have been reports that Poland’s major gas firm PGNiG (PGN.WA) has suspended a gas project in Iran because of the risk from US sanctions. Do you confirm this?
On this particular case, we are not aware of such a decision. We’ve only seen the reports in the press. The embassy is in contact with the PGNiG office in Tehran and the office is operating normally. They are not aware that the project has been suspended. Let me tell you that this is a very serious project to us. It responds to the policy of the Republic of Poland on energy diversification, which is like a key strategic policy of the Polish government to ensure the versification of supplies of crude, oil and gas. We perceive this project as very important. The negotiations are at a very advanced stage. We have received no confirmation on the suspension of the project that was covered in that report.
Well, what Polish projects in Iran are currently under threat from US’ renewed sanctions?
Now, you have touched on the biggest issue. Many of the European companies are private, and the European governments do not have the power to persuade or order them to remain in the Iranian market. Thanks to the countermeasures that might be adopted against the sanctions, the companies may feel reassured to remain in the projects. But we do not have a mechanism [to persuade them against their own decision]. We are trying to give them reassurance by adopting these measures, but we cannot force them to remain.
How have Trump’s unilateral actions regarding the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and his threats to impose sanctions on any company that does business with Iran affected the so-called “transatlantic partnership”? Will the EU continue to fight back for its own economic interests, or submit to Washington’s in the end?
We showed [our unified stance] during the Sofia summit and through other subsequent declarations of unity on preserving the JCPOA. We are of course in contact with our American partners as many of the European countries are members of the NATO alliance. So, while we are in contact with our American partners, we do not always have the same opinion concerning the Iran deal, as simple as that.
But is this commitment only economic-wise, or does it also expand into the political issues surrounding the nuclear deal? A recent Washington Post report has cited Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki as saying that Warsaw defends the US position and concerns about the JCPOA, which indicates a break with Brussels’ position that the JCPOA cannot be modified or have any additions, regarding Iran’s regional influence or missile program.
As I said, the Polish government is fully committed to preserve the JCPOA. Our Prime Minister Morawiecki was in Sofia last week where he subscribed to the full declaration. We see many benefits from the JCPOA, not just economic-wise. There is also a clear political benefit for us, as the deal secures peace in the Middle East, which is a very violate region and poses certain risks to Europe, including the proliferation of nuclear arms, or the refugee crisis that we witnessed over the last years.
We are 28 different Member States with different interests, threats, histories, trajectories and different degrees of cooperation with American partners. But as far as the JCPOA is concerned, we are all committed on preserving it. The countries within the EU can be perceived as sometimes closer or farther to the United States. I would suggest you to stick to the facts, and the facts are as they are: All 28 Member States are obviously talking with the American counterparts; we are listening to their arguments. Sometimes we agree with some of their arguments, sometimes we disagree. I think that as far as the objectives of the JCPOA are concerned, we mostly disagree. And we showed this in Sofia.
We are subscribing to all the decelerations of the EU leaders, fully supporting the declarations by Ms. Mogherini and President Juncker. As far as the JCPOA is concerned, there are no individual positions. All Member States are acting unanimously together. I cannot guarantee you that it will last forever, but I strongly believe that it will.
Last year, while talking to Polish Deputy Minister of Economy Tadeusz Kościński, we touched upon a project called ‘Go Iran’, which was basically Poland’s incentive package for companies doing business in Iran. Whatever became of that project, especially now in the light of the recent developments on the JCPOA?
The project is still going on, stronger than before. It is based in Warsaw at the Ministry of Economy, and was further strengthened by the opening of the Polish trade office in Tehran. I would say that we are now at the second stage of our presence in the Iranian market. Polish businesses are very interested in the Iranian market, not only major oil and gas companies but also the SMEs. Of course it is not always easy. I think the expectations on both the Iranian side and the Polish side sometimes do not match. Certain elements of this infrastructure and this business reality are basically unknown to the Polish businessmen who intend to come here. But we are only talking about two years of the opening of the Iranian market. I think it is very early to judge the degree and the success story of these activities. I think we need a little bit more time.
But I do see a positive trajectory, here. I also believe that the involvement of bigger oil and gas companies would encourage SMEs to intensify their activities in the Iranian market. As you know, it is not an easy task but I think time is needed, and I am confident that with the presence of this trade office and in case bigger investments start to become operational here, we will also have some results in other sectors of economy. I think there is a huge potential for the participation of Polish businesses in certain sectors other than oil and gas.
What other sectors, in particular?
We are already present in the Iranian market in the mining technology sector with the Polish FAMUR Group, which supplies a substantial share of the equipment to the Iranian mining sector. We also have a very strong position in the copper industry and technology. Poland is one of the biggest producers of copper in the world and we have very advanced experience in the sector. We are also thinking about the export of agricultural products, which in terms of quality and parity price, would be quite attractive for the Iranians.
There are also our high-quality and reasonable-priced pharmaceutical products, medical equipment, cosmetics, new technologies, renewable energies, and water management … and here is a very important message I would like to pass: all Polish products meet exactly the same standards as the French, Italian, German or any other European products, in order to access the European Single Market, but our products are much cheaper. So, I would like to encourage Iranian customers to buy Polish products as they are of a good quality and respect high EU standards, all the while as they are much cheaper than other European products.
Interview by: Marjohn Sheikhi