Concerns about the continued availability of medical equipment in the European Union and uncoordinated attempts by individual EU Member States to block exports of such equipment have prompted the European Commission to become active on two levels.

Regarding trade within the EU, the Commission has taken steps to ensure the unimpeded availability of medical supplies. The EU measures are embedded in the new Guidelines on border management measures to protect public health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services. According to the Commission, the controls put in place by the EU Member States must not undermine the continuity of economic activity and should preserve the operation of supply chains. Therefore unobstructed transport services are key to maintaining the availability of goods. Of primary concern is the transport of essential goods such as protective equipment and supplies, vital medicines, but also food supplies including livestock. Moreover, the Commission calls on the solidarity of EU Member States to preserve the free circulation of all goods and guarantee the functioning of relevant supply chains. No additional restrictions should be imposed on the circulation of goods in the EU Single Market, unless duly justified.

Germany has meanwhile lifted its temporary ban on the export of personal protective medical equipment. The Commission had previously threatened Germany with EU infringement proceedings because the ban restricted the sale of medical equipment even to other EU Member States, which according to the Commission was incompatible with the rules on the EU Single Market.

Regarding trade with non-EU countries, the Commission issued an Implementing Regulation, requiring that exports of specified personal protective equipment, whether or not originating in the EU, to non-EU countries be subject to authorization. As specified in a newer Guidance note, this includes all non-EU countries, including preferential trade partners, with the exception of the four member states of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), certain overseas countries and territories listed in Annex II of the Treaty on European Union, as well as the Faeroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and the Vatican City. The UK is considered to be an EU country in this context.

Export authorizations for the specified personal protective equipment shall be granted by the competent authorities of the EU Member State where the exporter is established and shall be issued in writing or by electronic means. The new authorization requirement will be valid for six weeks.