Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the need for personal protective equipment has increased significantly in the EU. In accordance with Commission Implementing Regulation 2020/402 which is in effect, exports of certain personal protective equipment to non-EU countries require an export authorisation. There will be an exception to this requirement as concerns EFTA countries and a few othe countries. The export authorisation requirement took effect on 15 March 2020, and will apply for a duration of six weeks according to the Implementing Regulation. In Finland, applications for export authorisations are to be addressed to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The demand for personal protective equipment has increased with the spread of the coronavirus. Given its nature and the prevailing circumstances, such type of equipment is an essential product since it is necessary to prevent the further spreading of the disease, and safeguard the health of medical staff treating infected patients.
The demand is expected to continue increasing significantly in the imminent future with accompanying shortages developing in several Member States. Constraints exist throughout the EU single market to meet customers’ demand for the relevant personal protective equipment, in particular mouth protection masks.
Export authorisation required for ensuring sufficient stocks
Production of personal protective equipment such as mouth protection masks in the Union is currently concentrated in a limited number of Member States, namely the Czech Republic, France, Germany, and Poland. Some third countries have already officially decided to restrict exports of protective equipment. This is exerting pressure on ensuring sufficient stocks of personal protective equipment in the EU territory. In order to prevent supply problems, the Commission has implemented an export authorisation requirement for personal protective equipment. An export authorisation shall be required for the export outside the Union of personal protective equipment, whether or not originating in the Union. However, the Commission has made preparations for an exception to this as regards exports to EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), the Faroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City. In the event that this exception takes effect, an authorisation for exports to these countries will not be required. The Commission Implementing Regulation entered into force on 15 March 2020, and from that date will apply for a period of six weeks. During this period, the Union will review the need for continuing similar measures.
If a Finnish company intends to export mouth protection masks, protective garments, protective spectacles or visors for protection against potentially infectious material to non-EU countries, their export requires an authorisation granted by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. A list of products subject to authorisation is annexed to the Implementing Regulation. Applications for export authorisations will be processed within five days of receipt, once the necessary information is provided to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
The requirement which is now implemented for reasons of national health does not override any other export authorisation requirements in force in Finland, for example export authorisation requirements for preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. For instance, if a personal protective item subject to an export authorisation from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is also a dual-use product that requires an export authorisation from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the exporter needs export authorisations from both Ministries.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health will notify the public as to when it is possible to apply for export authorisations for personal protective equipment specified in the Commission Implementing Regulation.
Finnish Customs oversees exports of personal protective equipment
Customs is responsible for enforcing import and export restrictions and prohibitions on goods. Customs supervises imports and exports that require authorisations through its electronic systems, through controls of transport units at border crossing points, and in locations where freight is loaded and unloaded.
– We supervise all cross-border goods traffic. In normal circumstances, typical import and export restrictions concern, for example, weapons and animal-origin foodstuffs. Because of the coronavirus situation we will, for the first time, supervise exports of personal protective equipment to non-EU countries, says Mr Mikko Grönberg, Director of Customs Enforcement.
In 2019, exports of personal protective equipment from Finland as determined in the Commission Implementing Regulation amounted to 242 million euros, of which exports to other EU Member States amounted to 176 million euros (73 %), and exports outside the EU amounted to 66 million euros (27 %).
Ensuring smooth foreign trade an important priority
For its part, Finnish Customs works to ensure that commercial traffic runs smoothly despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus. With smooth foreign trade, Finland will have a sufficient supply of goods, and Finnish export companies can continue their business activity. Customs will also continue its enforcement and crime prevention work for protecting society, the environment, and citizens without any interruptions.