EU to launch moves to block US sanctions on Iran on May 18: Juncker

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The European Union is ready to negotiate opening its markets wider to US imports in order to prevent a potential trade war. But EU leaders have said they will only do so if the US lifts the threat of import duties on steel and aluminium products.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the 'blocking statute' will be done on May 18, 2018, at 10.30 in the morning. PHOTO: REUTERS

SOFIA (AFP) - The European Union will on Friday (May 18) begin moves to block the effect of United States sanctions on Iran in the bloc, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said, as part of efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Teheran.

"We will begin the 'blocking statute' process, which aims to neutralise the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions in the EU. We must do it and we will do it tomorrow morning at 10.30," Mr Juncker said at a summit in Sofia on Thursday (May 17).

The EU is trying to find ways to keep Iran in the 2015 accord by safeguarding the economic benefits Teheran gained in return for giving up its nuclear programme, after US President Donald Trump abruptly pulled out of the deal.

The "blocking statute" is a 1996 regulation originally created to get around Washington's trade embargo on Cuba.

It prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanctions laws and says no foreign court judgments based on these laws have any effect in the EU.

But the row with the US over the Cuba embargo was settled politically, so the effectiveness of the blocking regulation has never been put to the test.

Its value may lie more as a bargaining chip with Washington than its legal effectiveness, and last week an EU source acknowledged that the "political symbolic effect is potentially bigger than the economic effect".

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