The Minister of Economy Bruno Le Maire at the exit of the Elysee Palace, Paris, May 9, 2018
France urged Friday Europe to act to defend its “economic sovereignty”, advocating a strong and concrete response to the threats of US extraterritorial sanctions on European companies.
“It’s time for Europe to turn words into action in terms of economic sovereignty”, to defend itself against the sanctions that the United States wants to apply to foreign companies working in Iran, said the French Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire, on Europe 1.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, for his part, said in an interview with the Parisian that these extraterritorial sanctions were “unacceptable”.
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Palais de l’Elysée, Paris, May 09, 2018
Several European companies have paid the price in recent years for such convictions, allowing Washington to punish foreign companies working with embargoed countries, from the moment they trade with the United States or use the dollar in their trade. transactions.
The French bank BNP Paribas thus had to pay 8.9 billion dollars for having violated the sanctions against Iran and other countries. German banks Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank also received $ 1.45 billion and $ 258 million in fines in 2015.
– “vassalization” –
“We accept the vassalization of Europe in commercial matters? The answer is no,” insisted the Mayor during a press briefing on the occasion of a visit to France by his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra.
Before even receiving his British and German counterparts at the end of May to see the means to fight back, the minister said that a “road map” containing “three very concrete proposals” was already ready.
“The first answer is the 1996 regulation, a European regulation that condemns extraterritorial sanctions”, which could be strengthened and adapted to the new international context, he said.
Created to circumvent the embargo on Cuba, this so-called “blocking” law allows European companies and courts not to submit to regulations on sanctions taken by third countries and stipulates that no judgment issued by foreign courts on the basis of these regulations can not be applied in the EU. However, it has never been applied.
Another track, “endow Europe with financial instruments” allowing it to be independent against the United States. According to Mr Le Mayor’s entourage, the idea would be to bypass the international banking system Swift, through which spend more than 90% of international funds transfers and which is essentially controlled from the United States.
Finally, the minister mentioned the existence of “a foreign asset control office that allows the US Minister of Finance to monitor the activities of foreign companies that do not respect US decisions, to condemn and prosecute them”.
“Why do not we endow ourselves in Europe with the same type of European office that can look at the activities of foreign companies and check that they respect European decisions?” He suggested.
– “Awareness” –
Can these proposals win the support of the Member States of the European Union? For the time being, no European heavyweight has openly questioned US extraterritorial policy.
But according to Le Mayor, who has spoken for the past two days with several EU counterparts, “there is a real awareness of all European states”. With “all our European allies, we are talking collectively,” he said.
If the major European countries seem to be unanimous in wanting to emancipate themselves from the American ally, considered uncontrollable, there is no guarantee, however, that the offensive launched by Paris will be successful, given the differences of interests between the member states. .
In recent months, several economic initiatives have been launched by France, whether for the creation of a budget for the euro area or for the establishment of a fairer taxation of digital giants. Without success, so far.
President Emmanuel Macron speaks to students in Aachen, Germany, May 10, 2018
Faced with the risk of immobility, French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday criticized the German procrastination on reforms in Europe. “Do not wait, let’s act now!”, He urged.
An injunction that received a polite response from Angela Merkel: “We have political cultures and ways of approaching different European subjects,” said the German Chancellor.