Utrecht University’s Law School’s research programme Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE) organizes an afternoon expert dialogue on 18 April on the EU Blocking Regulation and extraterritorial US sanctions. The aim of the seminar is to understand the EU’s motives for the reactivation of the Regulation, analyze its provisions, identify implementation problems, and discuss its effectiveness in countering US extraterritorial sanctions and protecting the EU’s economic sovereignty in respect of its trade relations with Iran.
On 6 June 2018, the European Commission reactivated the so-called ‘EU Blocking Regulation’ in response to the US repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and the reinstatement of US sanctions against Iran. The US sanctions include extraterritorial or secondary sanctions, and make certain business transactions between EU persons and Iran sanctionable under US law. Back in 1996, the EC enacted the EU Blocking Regulation (EC Regulation 2271/96) to protect EU economic interests from the first generation of US secondary sanctions, but after a deal was struck between the EU and US, the Statute lay dormant until 2018. Given the state of US-EU relations, in particular US unwillingness to compromise, it is not unlikely that this time around, the Blocking Regulation will be applied. Under the Blocking Regulation, EU citizens are barred from complying with US sanctions. Second, they are entitled to claim damages for injury suffered as a result of the application of US sanctions. The effectiveness of the Blocking Regulation is unclear, however. Caught between US and EU law, EU businesses may tend to comply with US sanctions law for fear of losing access to the US market, and risk sanctions under the EU Blocking Regulation. How vigorously EU Member States will enforce the EU Blocking Regulation also remains an open question.