Speech on the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions on Iran for European companies, at the European Parliament


Speech delivered by Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, during the European Parliament Debate on the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions on Iran for European companies


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Madame President, all Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

Last week the United States have unilaterally re-imposed all the sanctions that they had removed thanks to the nuclear deal with Iran – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

On 2 November the High Representative issued a statement together with the Foreign and Finance Ministers of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, expressing deep regret at this development.

The sanctions re-imposed on 5 November cover a wide array of sectors, and together with the designation of some 700 individuals and entities impact large parts of the Iranian economy. As such, they are a serious challenge to the continued implementation of the JCPOA.

The re-imposition of US sanctions may also bring substantial collateral effects. In particular, it could weigh on the region's trade flows, energy supplies, connectivity, and ultimately the security and stability of states such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let me begin this debate with a few general comments. First, we continue to support the JCPOA as its provisions continue to ensure that Iran does not acquire material or equipment to develop a nuclear weapon. The deal with Iran is working and delivering on its goal, namely ensuring that Iran's nuclear programme remains exclusively peaceful. This is an assessment based on scientific facts provided through a uniquely high number of inspections and thirteen reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Moreover, there is no credible peaceful alternative to the JCPOA.

The deal with Iran is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture. It is crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. Dismantling the agreement would not only destroy years of diplomatic efforts, but also undermine other key multilateral negotiations, in the nuclear field and beyond. It is a matter of security, and it is a matter of credibility for the international community. For these reasons, the EU and its Member States are determined to preserve it.

We remain committed to the continued implementation of the nuclear deal in all its aspects: and in particular, we are at work to preserve the economic dividends arising from sanctions-lifting. Let me remind everyone that we are talking about economic benefits for the people of Iran, which constitute an essential part of the deal.

As we remain committed to our side of the deal, we also expect Iran to continue implementing in full all its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.

The European Union has already taken a number of measures:


  • First, we have updated our Blocking Statute to ensure that business decisions are not determined by the listed US extra-territorial legislation, which the Union does not recognise as applicable to EU operators. The Commission has significantly engaged with economic operators and Member States on the implementation of the Statute.


  • Second, we have extended the European Investment Bank's lending mandate. This allows the Bank to lend in Iran in the future, in line with relevant rules and procedures.
  • Thirdly, the European Commission is elaborating a range of activities to strengthen the activities of small and medium enterprises between the EU and Iran: we are working on technical exchanges to enhance trade, harmonisation of standards, and due diligence and compliance efforts.


I am aware of the high level of interest among you regarding the design and state of play of the Special Purpose Vehicle.

We Europeans cannot accept that a foreign power – not even our closest friend and ally – takes decisions over our legitimate trade with another country. The ongoing work – led by France, Germany and the United Kingdom – aims at preserving the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA in all its aspects and in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2231. But protecting legitimate trade is also a basic element of our own sovereignty, and it is only natural that we are working in this direction.

This is a hugely complex and unique undertaking, requiring the best expertise available. Technical work has been advancing over the last days and weeks, under the political leadership of Member States and supported by the EEAS and the Commission. Our goal is to build something that is workable, effective and viable.

The Special Purpose Vehicle is not directed against the United States. On the contrary, preserving the nuclear deal is essential to our common security – both for Europe, for the United States and for our friends in the Middle East.

The Special Purpose Vehicle is not circumventing sanctions. It is about working in full transparency, ensuring due diligence for the most rigorous standards on anti-money laundering and on countering the financing of terrorism, in full respect of UN Security Council resolutions and the primacy of the EU law.

I am aware that many of you have concerns regarding Iran's foreign policy and respect for human rights. So do we. But the JCPOA was never meant to solve all of our disagreements with Iran. We continue to voice our disagreements on Iran's security role in the region and its ballistic missile programme. And we have engaged in a frank and active dialogue with Iran on these issues. We maintain a range of EU autonomous restrictive measures: these include an arms embargo, and measures against arms trade, against human rights violations, on Iran's support for the Assad regime in Syria and for terrorism.

Some of these issues are addressed through our EU-Iran High Level dialogue. The EU has also led a dialogue – together with France, Germany, Italy and the UK – to engage Iran constructively on regional issues. The last meeting of this group was convened in Brussels on 12 September, which discussed the situation in Syria and Yemen, and we hope to meet again before the end of the year.

This is also very much about our own security and regional security. But none of these issues is linked to the JCPOA, and they would not be easier to deal with without the JCPOA.

Preserving the nuclear deal with Iran is an essential security interest for Europe, for our region and for the whole world. So we will keep working to preserve a nuclear non-proliferation agreement that is working well, and to prevent a major security crisis in the Middle East.


Thank you.


Link to the video:


Closing remarks

Madame President, this has been a very useful exchange and I thank the Honourable Members for their interventions.

From this debate I conclude that we all share a common interest in using the diplomatic power and instruments of the EU and its Member States to their full potential in support of preserving and implementing the JCPOA, which is vital for EU and international security.

May I close by signalling once again my appreciation of the Parliament's role in keeping this important issue on its agenda.


Thank you.


Link to the video:


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