EU to block Trumps Iran sanctions by activating old law

The European Commission will on Friday launch a trade defense law in response to U.S. economic sanctions against Iran in a bid to keep the nuclear accord with Tehran alive, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday.

Juncker told reporters in Sofia that EU leaders decided Wednesday night to activate the so-called blocking statute, which bans European companies from complying with the U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“We have the duty, the Commission and the European Union, to protect our European businesses,” said Juncker, adding: “We must act now and we will act now. Thats why we are launching the process to use the 1996 blocking statute to neutralize the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions on European companies … We will do that tomorrow morning at 10:30.”

The blocking statute would forbid EU companies, under threat of punishment, to cancel business ties with Iran because of the U.S. sanctions. To do that, the EU will need to update the law to include Donald Trumps sanctions, a process that could take up to two months, depending on how fast the European Parliament and Council vote on the update. EU countries need to approve the text by a qualified majority, meaning skeptics like Germany alone would not be able to veto the law.

Juncker also said that leaders have decided “to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies investment in Iran.” This means that the investment bank could potentially issue loans for companies that might no longer be covered by European banks, which are expected to withdraw their operations from Iran out of fear of consequences for their business with the United States.

Jakob Hanke contributed reporting.

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