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EU initiates steps to protect European business in Iran

Published: Updated:

The European Commission said on Friday it had started the process of renewing a sanctions-blocking measure to protect European businesses in Iran, after the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.

The Commission said in a statement it had “launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of US sanctions on Iran falling within its scope,” referring to an EU regulation from 1996.

EU officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to encompass US President Donald Trump’s May 8 decision to revive Iran-related sanctions, after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods, including sanctions aimed at Iran’s lifeblood oil sector and transactions with its central bank.

Political support

The Commission said the EU measure would come into force within two months, unless the European Parliament and EU governments formally rejected it, but that it could also be activated sooner if there was strong political support.

The EU’s blocking statute bans any EU company from complying with US sanctions and does not recognize any court rulings that enforce American penalties. It was developed when the United States tried to penalize foreign companies trading with Cuba in the 1990s, but has never been formally implemented.

Other measures proposed by the Commission, the EU executive, include urging EU governments to make transfers to Iran’s central bank and to start the legal process of allowing the European Investment Bank to lend to EU projects in Iran.