EU moves to shield EU firms from US sanctions against Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, to discuss Iran's nuclear deal, on May 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 May 2018
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EU moves to shield EU firms from US sanctions against Iran

  • The move to invoke the “blocking statute” had received the all-clear at a meeting of European Union leaders in Sofia on Thursday as the transatlantic rift deepened
  • The commission said it hopes to have the measure in force before Augut 6 when the first batch of US sanctions take effect

BRUSSELS: The EU launched formal steps Friday aimed at sparing European firms fallout from US sanctions on Iran as part of efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran.
The move to invoke the “blocking statute” had received the all-clear at a meeting of European Union leaders in Sofia on Thursday as the transatlantic rift deepened.
The European Commission, the EU executive, said Friday it “launched the formal process to activate the blocking statute by updating the list of US sanctions on Iran falling within its scope.”
US President Donald Trump last week controversially pulled Washington out of the 2015 international deal with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions.
The “blocking statute,” which EU member states and the European Parliament must still endorse, is aimed at easing the fears of European companies that invested in Iran after the deal.
“The blocking statute forbids EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions, allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them, and nullifies the effect in the EU of any foreign court judgments based on them,” the commission said.
The commission said it hopes to have the measure in force before Augut 6 when the first batch of US sanctions take effect.
The commission also launched “the formal process to remove obstacles for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to decide under the EU budget guarantee to finance activities outside the European Union, in Iran,” the executive said.
“This will allow the EIB to support EU investment in Iran,” it added, noting the measure could help small and medium-sized companies.
The “blocking statute” is a 1996 regulation originally created to get around Washington’s trade embargo on Cuba, which prohibits EU companies and courts from complying with specific foreign sanction laws, and says no foreign court judgments based on these laws have any effect in the European Union.
However, the Cuba row was settled politically, so the blocking regulation’s effectiveness was never put to the test, and its value may lie more in becoming a bargaining chip with Washington.


US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

Updated 50 min 51 sec ago
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US-Saudi business council reports $13bn in contracts

  • Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said

LONDON: The value of joint Saudi-US contracts rose to $13 billion in the first quarter of 2019, according to a business council report.

That marked the highest value of awarded contracts since the first quarter of 2015, the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council said.

The value of contracts awarded during the first quarter amounted to about half of the total value in all of last year, it added.

The contracts “included many vital projects, notably in the oil, gas, water and transport sectors,” Abdallah Jum’ah, the co-chair of the council, was reported as saying by Asharq Al-Awsat.

Energy was the top sector, with $3.1 billion of the value of contracts awarded, with many struck by Saudi Aramco. 

Improved oil prices, combined with a government focus on spending, contributed to the rise, the council said.

The construction sector also looks set for a recovery after many projects were put on hold due to the oil-price crash.

“If the pace of awarding construction contracts witnessed during the first quarter of 2019 continues for the rest of the year, the index of awarding construction contracts may return to the range we witnessed before the canceling and postponing of mega projects due to lower oil revenue,” the council said.