Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the EU introduced measures requiring that exports to non-EU countries of some personal protective equipment (PPE) be subject to authorization (see our previous alert). The European Commission now announced the prolongation of these measures until 25 May 2020 and issued a modified Implementing Regulation. The adjustments result from a careful evaluation of needs signaled by EU Member States and include the following:

  • The new rules reduce the list of products that require export authorizations to masks, spectacles and protective garments. They also clarify that the authorization is limited to Union goods, whether or not originating in the EU, and is not required for non-Union goods as defined in article 5(23) and (24) of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 laying down the Union Customs Code.
  • The modified Implementing Regulation extends the geographical exception to six Western Balkans countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia). The exemption previously only targeted the members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) as well as certain overseas countries and territories, the Faeroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino, and the Vatican City. The decision to expand the geographical exception responds to demands voiced by the candidate countries for EU Membership in the Western Balkans.
  • EU Member States are further required to process applications for export authorizations in an expedite manner and within maximum 2 working days. They shall immediately notify the Commission the authorizations granted and those refused.

The European Commission released an FAQ document accompanying the revised text. It provides guidance on the scope of the measures, the authorization procedure followed by the competent authorities, the approach foreseen regarding humanitarian supplies, customs procedures, and the role of the Clearing House created by the Commission to facilitate the availability of goods within the EU Internal Market.

Depending on the evolution of the health situation and the supply of PPE in the EU, it is possible that this export authorization scheme will be extended after 25 May. Following uncoordinated decisions by EU Member States at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Commission is now expanding its coordinating role in the crisis response, with the aim of preserving the homogeneity of the EU Internal Market. However, the restrictions on trade to non-EU countries not benefitting from an exception persist and will likely continue to give rise to tensions.