Cañete to Discuss Vital Central Banking Solution on Iran Visit
In a statement released Friday, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker declared that the Commission has a “duty… to do what we can to protect our European businesses, especially SMEs.”
As Europe steps-up its efforts to fulfill that duty, the commission took two concrete steps, launching the formal process to revive the blocking regulation that will prohibit EU companies from “complying with the extraterritorial effects of US sanctions.” The regulation also “allows companies to recover damages arising from such sanctions from the person causing them.”
The European Commission also launched the formal process to enable the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance activities in Iran under an EU budget guarantee. Helga Schmid, Secretary General of the European External Action Service, first announced that EIB would be receiving such a mandate, at the Europe-Iran Forum, a business conference organized by Bourse & Bazaar, in October 2017.
Friday’s statement further highlighted the pending visit of Europe’s Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, to Tehran. The visit, which will take place over the weekend, is a continuation of a program of “sectoral cooperation” launched in 2016.
But the most significant announcement was the news that the European Commission is “encouraging member states to explore the possibility of one-off bank transfers to the Central Bank of Iran” in order to assist Iran in receiving “oil-related revenues, particularly in case of US sanctions which could target EU entities active in oil transactions with Iran.”
Experts have pointed to the creation of channels for such transfers as an important short-term measure. A report published earlier this month by International Crisis Group, suggests enabling “pertinent European central banks to process related payments” as a means of “empowering those in the Iranian leadership who advocate continued compliance with the deal.”
Speaking on background, an EU official confirmed that Cañete’s visit would include “discussions on how the mechanics of all of this would work.” European authorities have identified two priorities: “One is to work out how you can facilitate payment of Iran for imports of oil to the European Union. But, secondly and equally importantly, the repatriation of Iranian funds that are currently in the European Union.”
The emphasis on repatriation is especially important as Iran seeks a route to sustained economic growth despite the snapback of primary and secondary U.S. sanctions. Economists have identified that increased public investment could help Iran achieve growth in the absence of the foreign investment that had been expected to follow the lifting of sanctions in 2015. Typically, half of Iran’s oil revenues are earmarked for the government budget, and a just under a third of revenues are allocated to the National Development Fund.
During recent consultations, experts from the International Monetary Fund implored Iranian authorities “to explore the scope to use oil revenues to fund bank recapitalization, and noted the importance of replenishing the Oil Stabilization Fund to provide the budget a buffer.”
Seen in this context, oil revenues are a lifeline for the Iranian economy. As Iran’s economy begins to lose momentum in advance of full sanctions snapback, Iranian business leaders and consumers will be watching intently to see if Europe can keep oil flowing in and revenues flowing out.
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