The Islamic Republic of Iran ranks as the 18th most populous country worldwide, with a population exceeding 81 million people. As of July 2021, it has been classified as a lower-middle-income country. Iran also holds the position of being the second-largest host of refugees globally, providing shelter to approximately 4.5 million displaced Afghans with diverse statuses, including 2.6 million who are in refugee-like situations. The country faces several development challenges, such as environmental degradation, water management issues, integration into the global economy, and high rates of drug addiction.
In December 2022, the Council of the European Union adopted new Conclusions on Iran, outlining the EU's stance regarding its relationship with Iran, the domestic situation in the country, including human rights issues, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and regional issues.
The EU advocates for a balanced and comprehensive strategy towards Iran, emphasizing dialogue to tackle all points of concern, adopting a critical stance on areas of divergence and a cooperative approach where mutual interests align.
The guiding principles of EU-Iran relations continue to be anchored in the Joint Statement from 16 April 2016. Following these guidelines, a Multiannual Indicative Plan (MIP) was formulated and approved in 2021, highlighting three focal areas:
- sustainable growth and jobs,
- climate change, environment and the green transition,
- and cross-border challenges such as migration, forced displacement, and drug issues.
Currently, the state of EU-Iran relations prevents the execution of projects under the first two priority areas. Nonetheless, the EU remains committed to supporting Afghan refugees in Iran, collaborating with International Organisations and international NGOs. This support falls under the third priority area of the MIP and is designed to complement the assistance provided under Priority 3: Migration, Forced Displacement, and Mobility of the Regional Multiannual Indicative Programme for Asia and the Pacific.
Additionally, the EU extends support to both Iranian and international civil society organisations (CSOs), primarily through grants.
Our flagship initiative
Iran hosts over 4.5 million Afghans, many of whom have refugee status. The country's progressive policies on education and healthcare for Afghan nationals set a benchmark for refugee support worldwide, influencing global agreements. The EU is committed to supporting Iran in the implementation of these policies, aiming to mitigate the challenges posed by the Afghan crisis, which shows signs of being a long-term situation.
Since 2012, the EU has actively supported the Solution Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR). This strategy is dedicated to facilitating durable solutions for Afghan refugees and their host communities in Afghanistan and the neighboring regions. Through the SSAR framework, the EU promotes access to rights, essential services, and livelihood opportunities for vulnerable Afghan populations and their host communities in Iran. This support is delivered via funding from the Multiannual Indicative Plan (MIP) and the regional funding envelope.
Additionally, Afghan refugees and their host communities in Iran benefit from the Regional Team Europe Initiative on the Afghan displacement crisis. This initiative, led by the EU, involves 12 EU Member States along with relevant Commission Services, focusing on protection, livelihoods, basic services, and migration management.
Currently, there are no plans for bilateral Team Europe Initiatives specifically targeting Iran.