European Union to activate statute to shield firms from USA sanctions against Iran

European Investment Bank Luxembourg

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 United States sanctions on European companies.

The EU needs to safeguard Iran's economic benefits as well as its own, in order to keep Tehran in the 2015 global nuclear deal and prevent its collapse.

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 USA sanctions.

In addition, Jean-Claude Juncker noted that EU leaders had "also made a decision to allow the European Investment Bank to facilitate European companies' investment in Iran" and that the European Commission would continue to cooperate with Iran.

EU leaders meeting Thursday in Bulgaria gave the European Commmission, the bloc's executive arm, the all-clear amid a deepening rift with Washington.

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.

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"The EU blocking regulation could be of limited effectiveness there, given the worldwide nature of banking system and especially the exposure of large systemic banks to USA financial system and US dollar transactions", he said.

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.

Some will come into effect by early August, with other sanctions coming into force by the beginning of November.

EC will maintain its cooperation with Iran while the US Treasury Department has recently announced to European companies that they have been given a six-month deadline to end their investment in Iran.

Some of Europe's biggest firms had rushed to do business with Iran after the nuclear deal took effect.

The approach, it said, could ensure Tehran receives its oil-related revenues if USA sanctions target European Union firms active in oil transactions with Iran.

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