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Enforcement and protection | Brussels, 23 March 2021

Strengthening the EU’s autonomy – Commission seeks input on a new anti-coercion instrument

Today, the European Commission launched a 12-week public consultation to seek input from businesses, organisations and individuals in shaping a new legal instrument to deter and counteract coercive practices by non-EU countries. This instrument would empower the Commission to apply trade, investment or other restrictions towards any non-EU country unduly interfering in the policy choices of the EU or its Member States.

Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade Valdis Dombrovskis said: “As part of our new EU trade policy approach, we have committed to being more assertive in defending our interests. The new anti-coercion instrument could be a critically important part of this approach. It could give us a strong autonomous tool to take action when our partners do not play by the rules. We strongly encourage stakeholders, in the EU and outside, to share their views on coercive practices and how best to tackle them. We need to strengthen the EU’s resilience, protect our economic interests, and enhance our legitimate rights to impose countermeasures, where necessary. This is what the initiative stands for and we look forward to receiving a wide range of contributions.

The consultation

The consultation seeks input on various policy issues relevant for the design of an EU anti-coercion instrument:

  • the triggers (or the circumstances in which the EU may act);
  • the countermeasures (types of measures the EU may employ to tackle coercion), and; 
  • the likely impact of the various options.

The public consultation, open until 15 June 2021, is part of an overall consultation strategy for this initiative. Today’s launch marks the start of the consultation activities, which include various events with stakeholders throughout the period March-June 2021.

The input received will serve the Commission in developing its legislative proposal to be adopted by the end of this year. The EU policy intervention, in any form, must and will be compatible with the EU legal order and with international law. The instrument will not be targeting any particular country. It will be looking at the problem of coercion, which the Commission is at this stage tracing and studying. The definition of coercive practices by non EU-countries is a central question for the initiative and the Commission is currently seeking input from stakeholders to further define them.

Background

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of examples of foreign countries seeking to influence the decisions or behaviour of the EU or EU Member States in the area of trade and investment policy. Those countries may try to obtain a certain policy direction by restricting trade or investment – or threatening to do so – to the detriment of EU businesses including those operating in these third countries. Such practices unduly interfere with the legitimate policymaking space of the EU and its Member States and undermine the EU’s open strategic autonomy.

In the legislative process to amend the EU Trade Enforcement Regulation, the European Parliament and EU Member States raised concerns about these practices. This led to a political agreement on a Joint Declaration of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to create a new legislative instrument to deter and counteract coercion.

The initiative was announced by President von der Leyen in her Letter of Intent to the President of the Parliament and President in office of the Council of 16 September 2020. It is also part of the Commission Work Programme 2021.

An Impact Assessment will accompany the Commission’s legislative proposal. The Inception Impact Assessment was published earlier this year and presents the preliminary concept of the initiative.

For more information

Link to the open public consultation
Link to the overall consultation strategy for the initiative
Stakeholder meeting on 16 April 2021 (Registration closes on 12 April) 
Frequently Asked Questions
Commission page on the EU anti-coercion instrument