Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

EU countries preparing oil ban on Iran

A Greek official has indicated that Athens would back an oil embargo on Iran, setting the stage for a positive decision by EU countries at the end of the month.

The unnamed official told the Reuters and Bloomberg news wires on Tuesday (3 January) that Greece has dropped its previous opposition to the new measure.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Strait of Hormuz - the world's gateway to Saudi oil (Photo: eutrophication&hypoxia)

"If the European Union decides to impose the sanctions, Greece will join them ... If the sanctions are imposed, we will seek other ways to ensure we continue receiving the needed supplies and that the oil market operates smoothly," he said.

Greece - which buys around 35 percent of its oil from Iran - said No to the measures at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels in December. An EU diplomat at the time told EUobserver that several member states have reservations about the move because it would make oil more expensive for the EU but cheaper for Iran's Asian customers.

France has in recent weeks continued to build support for an EU embargo, however.

Its foreign minister, Alain Juppe, told France's I-Tele TV station on Tuesday there is no doubt that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons and that President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to see an oil ban as well as a freeze on Iran's central bank assets.

"The US Congress voted in favour of this and the President of the United States has just approved the law. And we hope that the Europeans will take equivalent action by 30 January in order to clearly demonstrate our determination," he said, referring to the next regular meeting of foreign ministers.

The EU has since 2010 already banned its companies from helping Iran to pump oil or gas, provide insurance for Iranian firms or sell weapons to the Islamic republic. It has also built up a blacklist of around 300 companies and people involved in the nuclear programme and in human rights abuses.

In one sign that the sanctions are causing pain, 14 Iranian firms or groups of companies in 2011 launched law suits against the EU measures. One firm - Hanseatic Trade Trust & Shipping - won its case. Another one - Kala Naft - lost, while the rest are ongoing.

The US state department in a press briefing also on Tuesday pointed out that the Iranian rial nosedived after Washington blacklisted Iran's central bank at the weekend.

"I ... take note of the fact that there seems to have been a significant drop in the Iranian currency, and that’s among the measures of how these sanctions are biting on the country," spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

For its part, Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz - a 34-km-wide sea passage between Oman and Iran used by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to get their oil to world markets - if its oil exports are blocked.

Its military earlier this week test fired Nasr and Ghader anti-ship missiles in a show of force. "Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water," its naval chief, Habibollah Sayyari, told the state-run Press TV on Tuesday.

The sabre-rattling was matched by the US, which has a massive naval presence in the area.

Nuland said in her briefing that "no option is off the table" including air strikes against Iranian nuclear targets. "We believe in freedom of navigation through the straits and we believe in our right to move our vessels," she added.

EU unready for Iran oil ban, Syria intervention

Crisis-hit Greece has said 'No' to an EU oil ban on Iran, causing relief among other member states. France, the most hawkish EU country on the Middle East, has also toned down ideas for outside intervention in Syria.

US senators warn Ashton on risk of Iran war

US senators have warned EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton that Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme risks igniting a military confrontation.

Agenda

This WEEK in the European Union

An EU parliament reshuffle, the fiscal compact treaty, Hungary's constitutional reforms and an oil ban on Iran are likely to dominate the Union's agenda next week.

Opinion

Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways

For the most part Nato and its 30 leaders rose to the occasion — but it wasn't without room for improvement. The lesson remains that Nato still doesn't know how or want to hold allies accountable for disruptive behaviour.

Column

One rubicon after another

We realise that we are living in one of those key moments in history, with events unfolding exactly the way Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt describes them: a sudden crisis, rushing everything into overdrive.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey signs Nato protocol despite Sweden extradition row
  2. European gas production hit by Norway strike
  3. EU Commission told to step up fight against CAP fraud
  4. Ukraine needs €719bn to rebuild, says PM
  5. Germany records first monthly trade deficit since 1991
  6. Pilots from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden strike
  7. Report: EU to sign hydrogen deal with Namibia
  8. Israel and Poland to mend relations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules
  2. Turkey sends mixed signals on Sweden's entry into Nato
  3. EU Parliament sued over secrecy on Nazi MEP expenses
  4. Italy glacier tragedy has 'everything to do' with climate change
  5. The Digital Services Act — a case-study in keeping public in dark
  6. Report slams German opposition to new child sexual abuse rules
  7. Is China a challenge to Nato? Beijing responds
  8. ECB announces major green shift in corporate bond-buying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us