A ban on the import of Iranian petrochemical goods is due to go into effect on 1 May 2012. As per Plasteurope, what this means is that from that point onwards, European companies will no longer be allowed to import petrochemical products nor invest in Iran’s petrochemical sector. Exports of key European technologies to the country will also be prohibited. In response to pressure from Greece – a country that is highly dependent on Iranian oil, as are Portugal and Spain – the EU’s decision includes a review clause, due for renewed examination on 1 May. As part of the ban, the Union also plans to freeze the European accounts of Tehran’s central bank. It should be noted that both the US and the UK already took similar measures against Iran’s oil and gas industry in November 2011, and have also ceased all business with Iranian banks.
In response to the EU embargo, Iran itself has threatened a complete cessation of exports. On 26 January, Emad Hosseini, spokesman for the Iranian parliament's energy committee, said a relevant bill would be presented to the country’s parliament on 29 January. If the bill passes, Tehran could cease all oil exports to Europe even before the EU embargo is due to go into effect. Experts believe these developments will result in a number of price increases on the global oil markets, although it now appears as though the extent of the hikes will be far less than initially feared. Following last year’s unrest, the return of Libya into the fold of leading global oil suppliers is sure to have a calming effect.