The European Commission has proposed using a 1996 “blocking” law to circumvent the United States’s proposed sanctions on companies that continue to trade with Iran, now that the US has announced its withdrawal from the nuclear agreement.
Created to get around the Cuban embargo , this “blocking law” allows European companies and courts not to submit to regulations on sanctions imposed by third countries – the United States, in this case – and stipulates that no judgement decided by foreign courts on the basis of these regulations can be applied in the EU. However, it has never been applied.
“We have been debating concrete solutions to ensure that the European Union can continue to respect its commitments in the agreement and protect our economic operations,” said EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, at a press conference in Brussels.
“We have talked about the possibility of applying our blocking status and we are ready to do so, if necessary,” he added, just hours before a summit in Sofia.
In the Bulgarian capital, leaders of the European Union will discuss the US threats to European companies that trade with Iran, despite the reintroduction of US sanctions on the country.
“Our means are there and we will use them, but we must not hide the facts: these means are limited,” said President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of a meeting with the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.
“We will fully exploit the means that we have.”
The European Union seeks to preserve the nuclear deal, concluded in Vienna in July 2015 after years of negotiations between Iran and the 5 + 1 group (Germany, China, United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia), which freezes the Iranian nuclear program until 2025.
The EU and Iran started talks on Tuesday night, described as “good start” by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
In particular, the EU seeks to ensure that Iran continues to sell its oil and gas, open its banking, air and sea links, provide export credits and facilitate investment, said the European foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini.