EU Commission proposes legislation to protect countries from coercion

European Commission headquarters.

The European Commission has proposed the creation of a legislative tool that will protect the EU Member States from coercion by third countries. The Commission wants to ensure that through the Anti-Coercion Instrument (ACI), countries and their markets will be guaranteed if another country imposes coercive measures on them like sanctions or a transport ban.

A good example of how ACI could help is “China’s ban on imports from Lithuania or Russia’s ban of agricultural goods from the EU,” explained Bernd Lange, member of the EU Parliament. A few days ago, the European Parliament Committee on International Trade held its first meeting to review the Commission’s proposal. The first reactions were positive, even though there were some doubts and concerns on how and when the ACI could be used.

Trade weaponisation

During the first meeting of the Committee on International Trade, participants exchanged various and equally interesting views. Denis Redonnet, Chief Trade Enforcement Officer (CTEO), highlighted that the ACI was “a response to the increasingly growing weaponisation of trade and investment links in the international environment”.

Indeed, what the Commission intends to do with the ACI is create a safe environment for the Member States regarding restrictive and damaging policies from other countries. This is a positive step since, so far, countries were more or less left struggling alone when it came to such situations.

A point that could be addressed more clearly is that of international sanctions. What could happen, for instance, if the US imposes sanctions, but a Member State does not comply with them? Would the country be fined, or would the ACI protect it and ensure its independence in taking such decisions? Moreover, how will the ACI ensure that it is influential and respected internationally?

EU should avoid protectionism

Nevertheless, the concerns mentioned above were not shared in the Committee’s meeting. Maybe it is too early to address them since it is essential to tackle other issues. For example, Anna-Michelle Assimakopoulou (EPP, EL), who welcomed the idea of ACI, “stressed that it should be predictable and proportionate in its design and should not be used in the wrong ways.”

Similarly, Michiel Hoogeveen (ECR, NL) said that “the aims of the ACI seemed noble, but in fact, it gave the Commission even more power and the ability to launch a trade war.” He highlighted the importance of defining coercion clearly and assessing the instrument properly. Finally, Jörgen Warborn (EPP, SE) stated that the ACI may be “one way to deter economic coercion but that it should be carefully balanced so that it does not lead to protectionism.”

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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