14:03 GMT +320 February 2019
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    French President Emmanuel Macron, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel take a break on a balcony of Merkel's office after a meeting in the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, April 19, 2018

    Sovereignty Crucial for EU's Existence Amid Tensions Over Iran - German Minister

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    The German finance minister is calling for European unity to defend the continent in a trade dispute with the United States and disagreements around the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.The EU is gathering for an informal meeting to discuss how to defend European companies, which may be affected by the re-imposition of sanctions.

    Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, speaking in front of the federal Parliament has commented on US-European tensions under the Trump administration amid the tariff row and the disagreement over the US President's abandoning the Iran deal, telling German lawmakers:

    "It's European sovereignty that allows us to defend ourselves and to exist."

    He has stressed that the EU's remaining united during the recent disagreement is a good sign and hailed the position of French President Emmanuel Macron. Last week the French president met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Aachen, where they discussed the threat to the EU economy posed by the US’ recent actions.

    Both leaders have spoken in favor of making Europe stronger and less dependent on Washington, on whom they believe they can no longer rely. Macron later expressed the opinion that no other country should have power over a state's sovereign matters.

    "If we accept that other major powers, including allies […] put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are no more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion," Macron said.

    On May 16 EU leadership is set to meet in Bulgaria to discuss how to defend the interests of European companies amid the US withdrawal from the Iran deal. A source from the EU has told Sputnik that European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker and EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini are to lay out different options. The European Union is expected to send a clear message to its trans-Atlantic ally and express its commitment to the 2015 accord as long as Iran fulfills its obligations. European Council President Donald Tusk will reportedly call on France, the UK and Germany to share their insight on the matter.

    READ MORE: EU Working on Options to Counter US Anti-Iranian Sanctions

    Both Macron and Merkel  had tried to sway Trump from re-imposing sanctions on Iran contrary to the 2015 multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions, signed between Iran and the US, China, Russia, France and Germany, during their visits in April. But on May 8 the US President, who has repeatedly denounced the 2015 accord as a failure of the Obama administration, announced the US withdrawal from it, while the US Treasury Department immediately began re-imposing sanctions on Iran.

    These sanctions will affect not only Iran, but also companies, including European ones, that have business ties with the Islamic Republic. French giants like Airbus, Total, Renault and Peugeot are among those that have invested heavily after the Iranian market was opened up in 2015. The French foreign minister has slammed Washington for the decision which will also hurt those dealing with Iran. He added that Europe must not pay for the US withdrawal from the Iran deal and insisted that Washington should negotiate with the EU on possible sanctions against its companies.
    At the same time, France's Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire stressed the need for European countries to work on countermeasures and that he is going to propose a sanctions-blocking initiative to the European commission.

    Following Trump’s announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed confidence that instead of relying on the US, the EU must work out its own policy, including in the security sphere. She noted, however, that European foreign policy is still in its "infancy" and requires a lot of upgrading, especially considering the fact that the nature of conflicts has drastically changed since the Cold War.

    Tariff Row

    The disagreement around the Iran deal has come hot on the heels of the trade dispute between the US and the EU. It began in March when Washington imposed higher import tariffs on steel and aluminum, claiming to protect US producers from unfair competition, foremost from Chinese enterprises, and boost national security. The White House allowed the EU to enjoy a temporary exemption until June 1, although Washington’s trans-Atlantic partners insist on a permanent exclusion. The US is pushing its allies for concessions and insists on their capping metal exports in exchange for the special status.

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