Why The EU Can’t Save Iran

Cyril Widdershoven

The full impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran is still to be assessed, as major underlying factors remain opaque.

OPEC’s current fear of an oil glut in 2019, as indicated by investment banks, IEA, EIA and others, might not materialize. Market fundamentals are still strong, especially taking into account that U.S. refineries are ramping up production after maintenance season, while Iranian floating oil will end soon as sanctions are about to hit. Still, one of Iran’s major lifelines could be the current EU approach, which is largely trying to mitigate the effects of U.S. sanctions on European companies and financial operators. The rosy future painted by EU officials however shows severe cracks, while reality on the ground is extremely bleak.
European efforts to protect trade with Iran, as an answer to mitigate U.S. sanctions, are hitting a brick wall. European politicians seem to be out of touch with reality not only in the markets, but also concerning the attitude of several of its member countries. European politicians, mostly working from their shiny offices in Brussels and Strassbourg, seem to be living in an ivory tower, as no real practical support for all their measures has been shown in the respective member states.

The last factor showing the weakness of the EU Iran approach is the fact that no single European country is willing to host a so-called Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) as they fear the wrath of the U.S. Washington’s influence in real politics and markets is still much larger on a global and even bilateral stage than Brussels wants to admit. Leading European powers – Great Britain, Germany and France – are currently putting pressure on minor league EU member Luxembourg to host the SPV. The latter however is already doomed, as not only is the influence of London on Luxembourg minimal, but the small EU member can hide behind the refusal of Austria to host the SPV too. Brussels is showing a brave face, but it’s likely that Eastern European and Balkan member countries will reject the SPV plans, while Italy and Spain are still in limbo. Statements made by EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova that the EU cannot accept that a foreign power takes decisions over our legitimate trade with another country, seem to be very hollow and empty.

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