The European Union has imposed fresh sanctions against Iran’s banking and energy sectors to increase the pressure on its controversial nuclear programme.

The 27-country bloc is aiming to freeze the assets of 34 Iranian companies in Europe, including state-owned crude exporter, the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), according to the EU’s official journal.

The companies were added to a list of: “Persons and entities involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities and persons and entities providing support for the Government of Iran”.

The action complements restrictions imposed by the US against NIOC in September to pressure the Islamic Republic into entering formal negotiations on international monitoring of its nuclear programme.

Companies included in the new EU ruling include NIOC, National Iranian Drilling Company (NIDC), Iranian Oil Terminals Company (IOTC), National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC), National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC), National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and three banks.

US-led sanctions have caused Iranian oil exports to fall by over 1 million barrels a day (b/d) over the last three months, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) annual report. Iran denies that its exports have been significantly hit.

Western economic measures have also contributed to a collapse in the value of the Iranian rial, leading some Iranian officials to criticise the Tehran government’s handling of the economy.