Iran nuclear deal: European Union looks to avoid impact of U.S. sanctions

US sanctions against Iran to favour Russian businesses

After EU leaders discussed Iran at a meeting in Bulgaria, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc would start measures on Friday to ease the effect of the USA sanctions on European companies.

European Union officials say they are revamping the blocking statute to encompass U.S. 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.

Maersk, the world's biggest shipping container firm, the French oil giant Total and German-based insurance firm Allianz have already announced plans to withdraw from operations in Iran, to avoid new United States sanctions.

"As long as the Iranians respect their commitments, the EU will of course stick to the agreement of which it was an architect", said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. "We must do it and we will do it tomorrow morning at 10:30", Juncker said at the summit in Sofia.

The first step was to activate the "blocking statute" that "forbids European Union companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of USA sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the European Union of any foreign court judgements based on them", the document says.

Europe to exempt its firms from US sanctions on Iran

The European Union took formal steps Friday to shield its firms from USA sanctions on Iran as part of efforts to save the global nuclear deal with Tehran.

They will only into force if they are signed-off by the European Parliament and European Council within the next two months, but that is likely to happen before the U.S. sanctions take effect on August 6.

A blocking statute is a law enacted in a local jurisdiction that attempts to hinder the application of a law made by a foreign jurisdiction and is widely seen as an attempt to put pressure on Washington not to punish European firms that continue doing business with Iran.

The Commission also proposes to allow the European Investment Bank (EIB) to facilitate investment by European companies in Iran.

Tehran has warned it is ready to resume no-holds-barred "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment unless Europe can provide solid guarantees to preserve Iran's economic benefits under the deal.

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