Protection of supplies needed due to coronavirus outbreak: EU measure passed allowing Member States to control exports of masks, spectacles, visors, gloves and more, to third countries
Member States of the European Union are in urgent need of personal protective equipment (PPE), essential products to prevent the further spreading of the COVID-19 disease, and safeguard the health of medical staff treating infected patients in the context of the current international pandemic caused by the coronavirus outbreak. Demand is increasing significantly and steeply, and shortages are expected.
PPE includes masks, protective spectacles and visors, face shields, mouth-nose protection and protective garments, in this case intended for use by hospitals, patients, field workers and civil protection authorities.
A procurement procedure for personal protective equipment has been launched under the Joint Procurement Agreement for medical countermeasures, which it is hoped will be finalised by the end of April. Despite the fact that increased PPE production has been encouraged, it has been admitted that the current level of EU production and existing stocks will not be sufficient to meet the demand within the EU. At present, only a handful of Member States produce such equipment and PPE can be exported without restriction to other parts of the world.
Urgent action through the adoption of a Commission Implementing Regulation has been taken by the European Commission to deal with this situation.
That measure requires that exporting PPE outside the EU shall be subject to export authorisation by Member States for six weeks, in order to protect the supply. This means that Member State governments can explicitly authorise whether such PPE equipment is exported to non-EU countries. (This has already caused some consternation among non-EU countries, such as Serbia.)
Commission President von der Leyen has said, in an online video announcing the measure, that: “We adopted … an export authorisation scheme for protective equipment. This means that such medical goods can only be exported to non-EU countries with the explicit authorisation of the EU governments,” and that “This is the right thing to do because we need that equipment for our healthcare systems.” She also expressed her concerns at similar national measures imposed by France and Germany, as well as the closing of borders (announced by Germany very recently) and how this would disrupt supply chains, increase shortages, and affect the Internal Market.
Member States will be consulted during the six-week period on the potential adaptations and scope of the current measure and future steps, and the Commission will assist them to set up the necessary mechanisms for those export authorisations. The Implementing Regulation includes a model form for the export authorisation. The Implementing Regulation has already entered into force, and also applies to the United Kingdom.