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Blocking statute

On May 8th 2018, the United States of America unilaterally decided to reinstate extraterritorial sanctions against Iran and to withdraw at the same time from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, which has been concluded in 2015 between on the one hand Iran and on the other hand, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, the United States of America and the European Union. Lifting of certain sanctions against Iran was a vital part of this plan.

The reintroduction of extraterritorial sanctions by the United States could impact the EU operators who carry out legal international trade transactions with Iran. That is the reason why the European Commission decided to activate the former Council Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom (the said “Blocking Statute”) in order to protect European enterprises.

On April 17, 2019, the United States decided to cease suspension of Title III of the Cuba Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996 (commonly called the "Helms-Burton Act"), allowing European companies and individuals residing in the United States of America to be sued in Cuba since the Revolution of 1959. Application of this part of the law has so far been suspended by a decision of the American president.

Pursuant to this Regulation (EC) No. 2271/96, the EU enterprises can avoid the extra-territorial effects of sanctions imposed by third countries (in this context, the sanctions imposed by the United States against Iran and Cuba) and they are entitled to claim damages further to these sanctions to the person which caused them through a European court of justice. Decisions of foreign courts on the basis of these sanctions will be cancelled as regards their application in the EU.

Application in Belgium

Title VII (Articles 230 to 234) of the law of May 2nd 2019 laying down various financial provisions introduces a quantity of provisions allowing the proper implementation of the Regulation 2271/96 in Belgium.

The General Administration of the Treasury (FPS Finance) and the FPS Economy, S.M.Es, Self-employed and Energy are the competent authorities in order to supervise compliance with the obligations of the Regulation 2271/96. The FPS Foreign Affairs is designated as competent authority for transmitting to the European Commission relevant information as regards the implementation of the Regulation. The decision to grant an exception can only be taken by the European Commission itself (Article 230).

Informations utilesuseful information

The website of the European Commission contains useful information about the blocking statute.

The FAQ of the European Commission about the blocking statute are particularly interesting.

Other information:

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