On July 17, 2020, European Union High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell made a statement on US sanctions.
He said he was “deeply concerned at the growing use of sanctions, or the threat of sanctions, by the United States against European companies and interests.”
He said the EU has observed this developing trend in the cases of Iran, Cuba, the International Criminal Court and most recently the Nordstream 2 and Turkstream projects.
According to Mr. Borrell, “(a)s a matter of principle the European Union opposes the use of sanctions by third countries on European companies carrying out legitimate business. Moreover, it considers the extraterritorial application of sanctions to be contrary to international law.”
Borrell continued that Europe and not third countries should determine European policies.
Appropriately Borrell continued that, where countries share common foreign and security policy goals, great value is realized in the coordination of targeted sanctions with partners. The EU has experienced many positive examples of this. The EU will continue to coordinate where it can.
Perhaps, most importantly, Borrell underscored that “where policy differences exist, the European Union is always open to dialogue. But this cannot take place against the threat of sanctions.”
The Borrell statement occurs against the background of friction over EU efforts to trade with Iran. On August 28, 2019, the EU announced that its INSTEX mechanism to facilitate trade with Iran was operational. The EU informed participants that INSTEX was available to all EU member states. The first transactions were being processed, said an EU statement. The establishment of INSTEX shows the EU is serious about alleviating the pain of sanctions on Iran in order to persuade Iran to remain in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, until now, it has facilitated very few transactions.
The Borrell announcement also comes on the heels of an 18-page proposed economic and security partnership between China and Iran that would clearly violate U.S. unilateral sanctions against Iran.
The current issue of the International Enforcement Law Reporter will discuss these and other implications of the statement in more detail.