European Union to activate statute to shield firms from U.S. sanctions against Iran

French President Emmanuel Macron

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

"This approach could help the Iranian authorities to receive their oil-related revenues, particularly in case of U.S. sanctions which could target European Union entities active in oil transactions with Iran", the document says.

The "blocking statute" dates from 1996 and was created to defend companies working in Cuba from the effects of a U.S. trade embargo.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker described the meeting of leaders in Sofia as a show of unity among member states, and emphasised that the EU has a responsibility towards both the JCPoA and the European businesses that will be affected in the wake of new USA sanctions.

It also does not recognise any court rulings that enforce American penalties.

The step comes after Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to Brussels and met with his British, French and German counterparts to discuss the future of the nuclear deal without the US.

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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 United States 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.

US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that Washington quit the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which curbed Tehran's nuclear activity in exchange for lifting the UN Security Council's sanctions and unilateral restrictions introduced by the US and the EU.

European investments in Iran, mainly from Germany, France, and Italy, have jumped by more than 20 billion euros since 2016.

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.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that it might be possible to compensate small and medium-sized firms, but not all businesses, from U.S. sanctions.

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