In view of its concerns over the nature of Iran's nuclear programme, the Council of the European Union has recently decided to intensify financial measures against Iran.
On 15 March 2012 the Council introduced a ban on the supply of specialised financial messaging services - used to exchange financial data - to those persons and entities whose funds and economic resources have been frozen since 15 March 2012. This new financial measure prohibits companies such as the Belgian company SWIFT from continuing to provide specialised financial messaging services to Iranian financial institutions which are subject to EU sanctions. It also requires that providers disconnect specified Iranian financial institutions from their networks. As a result, those blacklisted Iranian financial institutions are effectively cut off from the global financial market.
The EU has furthermore adopted a new Council regulation which sets out the EU's sanctions regime against Iran and replaces the old regulation with effect from 24 March 2012. The new regulation includes the measures set out in the former regulation and introduces additional restrictive measures in connection with the bans on trade in oil, petroleum, petrochemical products, and gold and precious metals. The new regulation also makes certain technical amendments to existing measures and expands the lists of goods and technologies subject to an import or export ban.
In view of the situation in Syria, on 24 April 2012 the Council also decided to strengthen its restrictive measures against Syria. The Council decided to adopt restrictive measures on the export to Syria of equipment, goods and technology that can be used for internal repression. The Council also agreed to ban the sales of luxury goods from the EU to Syria.