Some are more equal than others
While a lot is being talked about Eurobonds to help the European economies tackle the crisis caused by the Corona pandemic, not so much is heard of the EU’s single market and how it works in the crisis. One of the fundaments of the EU’s market is the free movement of goods. In times of the closing of borders and shortages of specific goods (mainly protective equipment for health-care workers), upholding the free movement of goods cannot be taken for granted.
Recent measures by the Commission reveal where it sees the boundaries of its single market: The EU asks its member state to uphold the free movement of goods between themselves. It introduced an authorisation requirement for exports of protective equipment to non-member states, in order to preserve necessary equipment for its own inhabitants. But it decided to treat the EFTA countries Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein and the European micro-states as it treats member states – export of medical equipment is allowed without previous authorisation. The same is not true for other countries with a special relationship with the EU, neither associated nor candidate countries.
While upholding the principle of free movement of goods in times of crisis is good news not only for our health-care systems, but also for our supply with other essential goods, it should make us thoughtful that preferential treatment outside of the club of the members is not at least extended to candidate countries.
For an in-depth and competent analysis of the actual legal situation of export restrictions and free movement of goods, see Christa Tobler’s new analysis «EU corona emergency law: Restrictions on the exportof protective equipment» on EFTA-Studies.org.