23 August 2018, Berlin — German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday she agreed with her foreign minister that relations with the United States were changing but she stopped short of backing his call for a separate EU payments system to save a nuclear deal with Iran.
In a long column on how Europe should respond to U.S. policy under President Donald Trump, Heiko Maas, a member of Merkel’s junior Social Democrat coalition partners, suggested that Europe needed its own system for cross-border payments to conduct trade with Iran in the face of U.S. sanctions.
European powers are scrambling to ensure Iran continues to get the economic benefits needed to convince it to stay in the deal agreed in 2015 with six world powers but which the U.S. president abandoned in May. Trump has since imposed new sanctions on Iran which could trigger penalties on EU firms doing business with Tehran.
“On the question of independent payment systems, we have some problems in our dealings with Iran, no question, on the other hand we know that on questions of terrorist financing, for example, SWIFT is very important,” Merkel told reporters, referring to the global SWIFT network that facilitates many of the world’s cross-border transactions.
She added that it was very important to keep good co-operation with the United States in the area of security.
Belgium-based SWIFT had no comment.
Maas wrote it was essential that Europe strengthen its autonomy by creating independent payment channels, a European Monetary Fund and an independent SWIFT system.
A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry said the article by Maas in the Handelsblatt daily was intended to provoke debate on relations with Washington, including how European powers can keep the nuclear deal with Iran alive after the U.S. pullout.
Germany is discussing possibilities with partners, including Britain and France, said the spokeswoman. She added that keeping financial channels open was vital to save the deal, under which the Islamic Republic agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for a lifting of international sanctions.