Sanctions regime against Iran

 

On 14 July 2015, an agreement was reached between the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the EU and Iran on the control of Iran's nuclear programme (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPoA). The United Nations Security Council endorsed it in its Resolution 2231 of 20 July 2015. As a result, the UN, EU and US sanctions were lifted or suspended on 16 January 2016, following the UN resolution, after the International Atomic Energy Agency was able to establish that Iran was complying with the provisions of the nuclear agreement. For example, comprehensive sanctions in the sectors of finance (including banking and insurance), oil, gas and petrochemicals, shipping, shipbuilding and other transport services, gold, other precious metals, banknotes and coins no longer apply to Iran. At the same time, some individual sanctions have been lifted (visa ban and asset freeze).

However, on 8 May 2018, the United States decided to withdraw from the JCPoA. This decision was followed by the unilateral reinstatement of a number of comprehensive sanctions (the so-called “maximum pressure” policy). The other parties kept supporting the nuclear agreement. In response to several Iranian actions contrary to the JCPoA, the United Kingdom, France and Germany decided in January 2020 to activate the dispute settlement mechanism provided for in the agreement. This dialogue procedure aims to bring the parties to return to compliance with the agreement. Should the process fail, the UN Security Council may reactivate the sanctions against Iran that were lifted/suspended in 2016.

The reintroduced US sanctions have a significant impact, including on European economic operators. To counteract these extraterritorial effects, the EU implemented the Blocking Statute on 7 August 2018 (Regulation 2271/96). This prohibits compliance by European citizens and companies with these unilateral US sanctions. In addition, in January 2019, the UK, France and Germany created INSTEX, a financial mechanism to facilitate trade in humanitarian goods between Europe and Iran. In the meantime, other European countries, including Belgium, have also joined INSTEX.

Finally, there are still other sanctions regimes, unrelated to the nuclear agreement, which remain applicable to Iran. These include EU sanctions adopted in response to serious human rights violations, terrorism sanctions and the remaining UN sanctions on non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction.

 
Further information

EU information on the nuclear agreement with Iran:
https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/2281/Iran%20and%20the%20EU

UN information on the nuclear agreement with Iran:
https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/content/2231/background

Information about the Blocking Statute:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-finance/international-relations/blocking-statute_en

Legal documents (European decisions and regulations) concerning the sanctions still in force against Iran:

  • Council Decision 2010/413/CFSP and EU Regulation 267/2012, and its subsequent amendments, regarding the nuclear proliferation sanctions regime
  • Council Decision 2011/235/CFSP and EU Regulation 359/2011, and its subsequent amendments, regarding the human rights sanctions regime.

The EU regulations (and subsequent amending regulations) are directly applicable in Belgium.

For more general questions on the Belgian sanctions policy, please contact: sanctions@diplobel.fed.be.