(Bloomberg) -- Europe has intensified its efforts to preserve the Iranian nuclear accord and maintain economic relations with the Islamic Republic in the face of growing pressure after the Trump administration renewed its sanctions regime.
“The efforts to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, and economic and trade relations with Iran have been intensified in recent weeks, especially those that are related to the setting up of the special purpose vehicle,” Maja Kocijancic, European Union spokeswoman for foreign affairs, said on Friday, referring to the formal title of the Iran accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“One of the key measures from our side was the blocking statute, which was updated in August,” Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels. “This is one of the measures that have been put in place, but it’s the one that’s very relevant for companies because from our point of view, trade with Iran remains legitimate.”
Despite the blocking statute, the financial messaging network that connects the world’s lenders is disconnecting some Iranian banks from its system. The move includes the Central Bank of Iran, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted on Friday. The EU earlier this week warned that disconnecting banks from the Swift network “risks affecting the integrity of the international financial system.”
The special purpose vehicle the EU is developing is aimed at helping companies to avoid the U.S. sanctions and continue doing business with Iran, but details remain vague. Some companies, including energy firms Total SA and Engie SA, have said they would halt some operations in Iran due to the U.S. measures.
European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom admitted this week that the idea of the SPV “looks nice on paper but it’s hard to do” in practice. “Intensive discussions are ongoing with member states to see what can be done” to minimize the impact of the renewed American measures on European companies, she told a Brussels conference on Wednesday.
European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday that EU officials “regret this decision of the U.S. to take unilateral actions” against Iran. “Iran is actually sticking to its side of the deal, so the international community should stick with it,” he said.
--With assistance from Lyubov Pronina and Maria Tadeo.
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