Louis Michel and Karel de Gucht, respectively European Commissioners for Development and Humanitarian Aid and for Trade, wrote calling for EU institutions and member states to prioritise progress on human rights over new deals with the regime. Sanctions on Iran were lifted in January following the nuclear agreement, and, in April, eight European Commissioners visited Iran.

Michel and de Gucht, Euractiv reported, drew attention to the rate of executions in Iran, highlighted by Amnesty International and the United Nations, and went on to cite the country’s criminal repression of ethnic and religious minorities, the marginalisation of women, and the lack of guarantees for free and fair elections.

The former Commissioners also noted Iran’s ties to terrorism and to Assad, and drew attention to the regime’s “bullying attitude toward some European countries.”

President Hassan Rouhani cancelled a visit to Vienna last April after the Austrian government refused to ban a peaceful opposition rally during his visit.  “As the Iranian people and the opposition are not allowed to freely express their opinion inside Iran, we should not allow the regime’s repression inside the country to be extended to the European capitals,” the letter said.

Reporting that, when the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, visited Tehran, he said, “As Europeans, we want the Iranian people to have and to see the benefits of this agreement turning into changes in their everyday lives,” Euractiv said the letter “will come as an embarrassment to the current European Commission.”