EU restrictive measures were adopted as part of an integrated policy approach combining pressure and engagement to persuade Iran to comply with its international obligations.

In parallel, diplomatic discussions were held between Iran and the 'E3/EU+3' (France, UK, Germany and the EU+ the USA, Russia and China) on the nuclear-proliferation issue. These led to an agreement on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on 14 July 2015. The EU will be involved throughout the implementation process of this plan, including the progressive lifting of nuclear-related sanctions against the country.

Measures targeting nuclear proliferation activities

Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)

On 14 July 2015 Iran and the 'E3/EU3' agreed on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. This plan sets a series of steps for the coming years to ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. 

UN sanctions

Since 2006, the UN Security Council has adopted a number of resolutions requiring Iran to stop enriching uranium with nuclear proliferation purposes. These resolutions were progressively accompanied by restrictive measures to persuade Iran to comply. 

The EU implements UN sanctions through the adoption of EU legislation. 

On 20 July 2015, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2231(2015) regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed by Iran and the 'E3/EU+3'. This resolution:

  • endorsed the JCPOA
  • allowed for certain exemptions to existing restrictive measures
  • defined the schedule and commitments to be undertaken by all parties to lead to the termination of restrictive measures against Iran

Measures targeting nuclear proliferation activities - key developments

16/01/2016

Council lifts all nuclear-related economic and financial EU sanctions against Iran

14/01/2016

Council extends the suspension of certain EU restrictive measures

18/10/2015

Council adopts the legal acts to prepare for the lifting of all nuclear-related economic and financial EU sanctions

31/07/2015

EU starts implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

20/07/2015

UN Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) and Council conclusions

On 16 January 2016 (Implementation Day), the UN lifted certain of its nuclear-related restrictive measures, as set by Resolution 2231 (2015).

EU sanctions

In addition to implementing UN sanctions, during the past decade the EU imposed a wide range of autonomous economic and financial sanctions on Iran, including:

  • restrictions on trade in several goods: prohibition to export to Iran arms, dual-use goods and goods which could be used in enrichment-related activities; prohibition to import crude oil, natural gas, petrochemical and petroleum products; prohibition to sell or supply key equipment used in the energy sector, gold, other precious metals and diamonds, certain naval equipment, certain software, etc.
  • restrictions in the financial sector: freezing the assets of the Central Bank of Iran and major Iranian commercial banks, laying down notification and authorisation mechanisms for transfers of funds above certain amounts to Iranian financial institutions
  • measures in the transport sector: preventing access to EU airports of Iranian cargo flights, prohibition of maintenance and service of Iranian cargo aircraft or vessels carrying prohibited materials or goods
  • travel restrictions and asset freeze imposed against other listed persons and entities

Since January 2014, some of these sanctions have been suspended. This was done as part of the implementation of the interim agreement known as the Joint Plan of Action, agreed by Iran and the E3/EU+3 in November 2013. After the agreement on the JCPOA, this suspension was further extended by the Council until 28 January 2016, to allow for the necessary time to make arrangements and preparations for the implementation of the JCPOA.

On 16 January 2016 (Implementation Day of the agreement), the Council lifted all nuclear-related economic and financial EU sanctions against Iran. However, some restrictions remain in force.

Measures responding to serious human rights violations

Since 2011, the EU has also adopted restrictive measures related to violations of human rights, including:

  • asset freeze and visa bans for individuals and entities responsible for grave human rights violations
  • ban on exports to Iran of equipment which might be used for internal repression and of equipment for monitoring telecommunications

These measures are regularly updated and will remain in place. The last update, from 11 April 2017, extended them until 13 April 2018.