The EU will launch on Friday the so-called blocking status to protect, in particular, small and mid-size companies with Iranian business interests.It will also tap the European Investment Bank to help shield them from threatened USA sanctions, following President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
While the EU leaders are in Sofia for the May 17 EU - Western Balkans summit, the gathering in Sofia has been dominated by discussions about responses to the actions of the Trump administration, with the US President having repudiated the Iran nuclear deal, and has provoked a storm with its moves on steel and aluminium tariffs.
On Wednesday, asserting Europe's growing readiness to distance itself from its transatlantic ally, Tusk launched a stinging criticism of the United States president, saying that "with friends like that, who needs enemies".
Tusk said he wanted the European leaders to "reconfirm" that they will stay in the Iran deal, as long as Tehran respects it - although Europe must now find a way to make up for the USA sanctions on Iran that Trump will reactivate.
This comes amid the 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods set by Trump for necessary measures to be taken by the USA department to re-effectuate the sanctions on Iran, and thus accordingly for European companies to halt business deals in the targeted country. "But frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful by President Trump".
Total said on Wednesday that it might pull out of a multi-billion-dollar gas project in Iran if it couldn't get a sanctions waiver from the US.
Trans-Atlantic tensions came to a head with the USA president's decision announced last week to pull out of the landmark Iran nuclear accord which the remaining signatories - Russia, China, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, along with the European Union - all say is working. They include retaliatory sanctions and allowing the European Investment Bank to invest directly in Iran.
"We all agreed that we have a relative in intensive care and we all want to get him or her out of intensive care as quickly as possible", European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters after the 90-minute meeting.
Also, EC has made a decision to allow European Investment Bank to facilitate investment of European companies in the Islamic Republic of Iran, he maintained.
European leaders sought unity on Wednesday toward threatened US import tariffs on steel and aluminium, balancing the views of those most fearful of a trade war and those determined not to be bullied into concessions.
"We now need to act and this is why we are launching the process to activate the "blocking statute" from 1996". Although the U.S. unilaterally declared its withdrawal, if all other parties continue to abide by the agreement, economic and trade cooperation among them is legitimate and should be protected. "I want to stress that the Chinese government is opposed to the imposition of unilateral sanctions and the so-called long-arm jurisdiction by any country in accordance with its domestic laws", he said.
He called on the US President not to abandon the practice of multilateral negotiation with regards to issues of common interests, such as Iran or trade politics between regions.
On Thursday, a Russian-led trade bloc signed an interim trade deal with Iran and signalled plans to negotiate a free trade zone.