In a clear response to the U.S. move, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has announced that the bloc plans to apply a 1996 law that would prohibit European companies from complying with any sanctions the USA will reintroduce against Tehran, Deutsche Welle reported. "So we have the duty, the Commission and the European Union, to do what we can to protect our European businesses, especially SMEs".
We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process of to activate the "blocking statute" from 1996.
Measures could include retaliatory sanctions, allowing the European Investment Bank to invest in Iran and co-ordinating euro-denominated credit lines from European governments. A spokesperson for the company told Climate Home News: "We take great care to ensure we always comply with applicable sanctions".
The European Commission, the EU executive, said it "launched the formal process to activate the Blocking Statute by updating the list of United States sanctions on Iran falling within its scope".
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.
Unless it is formally rejected by the European Parliament and EU governments, the measure will come into force within two months, and can be activated sooner if there is strong political support.
The European Union said today that it had taken steps in an effort to protect European businesses from the impact of United States sanctions against Iran.
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"But the American sanctions will not be without effect".
The 2015 nuclear deal opened Iran to worldwide investments after four decades of sanctions.
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.
On Friday, European commissioner for climate change and energy Miguel Arias Cañete flew to Iran.
Meanwhile, the commission also stressed Friday that the European Union remains committed to its "essential cooperation" with the U.S., which remains a key partner and ally.
In recent days, several European companies have announced their intention to wind down business in Iran, raising questions about how much the EU can deliver on its promises.
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