EU sanctions against the Iranian nuclear programme

Main points

  • Sanctions are a response to Iran's violations of its international obligations. They target the Iranian nuclear programme and are not aimed at the Iranian people. They include relevant exemptions and specific provisions in order to minimise any unintended effects on the Iranian population.
  • It is for the Iranian leadership to act responsibly and bring these sanctions to an end.

Origin and objectives

  • The EU sanctions against Iran find their origin in the international community's serious and long standing concerns about the nature of Iran's nuclear programme. Iran has been pursuing a nuclear programme for many years, including an intensive uranium enrichment effort, in violation of several resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and IAEA Board of Governors resolutions.
  • The EU sanctions firstly implement the international sanctions as imposed on Iran by UNSC Resolutions. In addition, in support of the UN sanctions regime, the EU has adopted autonomous sanctions, going beyond those imposed by UNSC Resolutions.
  • The aim of the sanctions is to affect Iran’s nuclear programme, those persons and entities supporting the programme and revenues of the Iranian government used to fund the programme. They are targeted in a way to achieve the maximum impact on those whose behaviour the EU wants to influence.  The EU sanctions are not aimed at the Iranian people.
  • The sanctions are adopted and implemented in accordance with international law and in respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  • The EU sanctions have one clear goal: to urge the Iranian government to engage constructively, negotiate seriously and address the concerns of the international community in order to restore confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.
  • Sanctions are not an end in themselves. It is for the Iranian leadership to act responsibly and bring these sanctions to an endby engaging in a serious negotiation process aimed at restoring the confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme and by complying with all its international obligations, including full implementation of UNSC and IAEA board of Governors Resolutions.

Most important measures

  • The EU's sanctions, in line with UN sanctions, include in particular prohibitions for trade in goods and technologies with Iran which could contribute to the Iranian nuclear programme, notably arms, proliferation-sensitive goods and technology. In addition, in 2012 the EU decided to add a number of measures focusing on Iran's energy sector, as this sector provides important revenues to the government of Iran which it uses to fund the nuclear programme. In particular, the EU has imposed a ban on the import of Iranian oil. Other measures concern natural gas, petrochemical products and key equipment and technology for the oil, gas and petrochemical sector. In the financial sector, the EU's measures include a prohibition on financial transfers by European financial institutions with Iranian banks, with an authorization regime. Furthermore, in the framework of the UN and the EU's sanctions a number of persons and entities have been designated in view of their involvement with Iran's nuclear programme.
  • However, there are no general prohibitions on trade with and remittances to Iran under the EU’s sanctions regime and transfers in connection with a specific trade contract are still possible. Allowed transactions may therefore proceed with the authorisation of Member States’ authorities under clearly defined procedures. And while transfer of money to and from Iran has indeed become more difficult as certain major Iranian banks have been designated for their involvement in the Iranian nuclear programme, there are still a number of channels for financial transfers which remain open and which ensure that such transactions with Iran can continue.

Sanctions and the Iranian population

  • The sanctions are not aimed at the Iranian people. In order to minimise any unintended effects on the Iranian population, the EU sanctions contain explicit provisions guaranteeing that transactions for humanitarian purposes remain possible with as few restrictions as possible. Relevant exemptions apply for transactions regarding foodstuffs, healthcare, medical equipment or for agricultural and humanitarian purposes.