Common rules for imports

Common rules for imports

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Common rules for imports


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

External trade

Common rules for imports

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EC) No 260/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the common rules for imports.


The regulation lays down the principle of freedom to import products originating in non-European Union (EU) countries, subject to possible safeguard measures. This regulation applies to imports into the EU of products originating in non-EU countries except for textile products covered by special rules for imports and products originating from non-EU countries which are subject to that country’s own import rules.

Information and consultation procedure

EU countries must inform the Commission if import trends suggest the need for surveillance or safeguard measures. Consultations may be held either at the request of an EU country or on the initiative of the Commission. They take place within an advisory committee made up of representatives of each EU country with a representative of the Commission as chairman.

These consultations primarily examine the conditions of imports, the economic and commercial situation and the measures, if any, to be taken. Consultations may be conducted in writing if necessary and the EU countries may express their opinion or request oral consultations within a period of five to eight working days.

Investigation procedure

Where, after consultations it is apparent that there is sufficient evidence to justify the initiation of an investigation, the Commission initiates an investigation within one month and publishes a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union, summarising the information received.

The investigation seeks to determine whether imports of the product in question are causing or threatening to cause serious injury to the EU producers concerned. Once the investigation has been launched, the Commission seeks and verifies all information it considers necessary for the conduct of the investigation.

Within the framework of the investigation, the Commission examines:

  • the volume of imports;
  • the price of imports;
  • the consequent impact on EU producers;
  • factors other than trends in imports which are causing or may have caused injury to the EU producers concerned.

At the end of the investigation, the Commission submits a report to the advisory committee and, depending on the conclusion of its investigations, either terminates the investigation or decides to implement surveillance or safeguard measures.

This investigation procedure does not preclude the use, particularly in critical circumstances, of surveillance or provisional safeguard measures. In this instance, the duration of such measures must not exceed 200 days.

Surveillance measures

Imports of products may have to undergo EU checks on the basis of a decision by the Council or the Commission if market trends in this product threaten to cause injury to the EU producers of like or competing products, and the EU’s interests require such checks.

The decision to introduce surveillance measures is normally taken by the Commission. Such surveillance may involve retrospective checks of imports (statistical surveillance) or prior checks. In the latter case, products under prior surveillance may only be put into free circulation within the EU on production of an import document. This document is issued by the EU countries, free of charge, for any quantity requested and within a maximum of five days of receipt of a declaration by the importer, regardless of their place of business in the EU. The document is valid throughout the EU, regardless of the EU country of issue.

Surveillance measures do not necessarily cover the entire EU. Where imports of a product have not been made subject to prior EU surveillance within eight working days of the end of consultations on the possibility of establishing EU surveillance, the Commission may introduce surveillance confined to imports into one or more regions of the EU.

EU countries must inform the Commission each month of the import documents that were issued (in cases of prior surveillance) and the imports received (in cases of prior and retrospective surveillance).

Safeguard measures

Safeguard measures may be applied where products are imported into the EU in such greatly increased quantities and/or on such terms or conditions as to cause, or threaten to cause, serious injury to EU producers. As regards members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), these measures are cumulative.

Where these conditions are fulfilled, the Commission may change the period of validity of the import documents issued in respect of surveillance or establish an import authorisation procedure and, in particular, a quota system for imports.

When establishing a quota, account is taken of the desirability of maintaining, as far as possible, traditional trade flows and of the volume of goods exported under contracts concluded before the entry into force of the measure. In principle, the quota should not be set lower than the average level of imports over the last three years.

Safeguard measures apply to every product which is put into free circulation after their entry into force. In exceptional cases, they may be confined to one or more regions of the EU. However, they do not prevent the release for free circulation of products already on their way to the EU.

These measures are taken by the Commission or by the Council. Where intervention by the Commission has been requested by an EU country, the Commission takes a decision within a maximum of five working days. The Commission’s decision is communicated to the Council and to the EU countries. Any EU country may, within one month, refer the decision to the Council. In this case, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may confirm, amend or revoke that decision. If, within three months, the Council has not taken a decision, the decision taken by the Commission is deemed to be revoked.

In any event, where the interests of the EU so require, the Council, acting by qualified majority and on a proposal from the Commission drawn up in accordance with the conditions set out above, may adopt safeguard measures.

No safeguard measure may be applied to a product originating in a developing country of the WTO as long as that country’s share of EU imports of the product concerned does not exceed 3 %, and on the condition that collectively the developing countries of the WTO with less than a 3 % import share do not account for more than 9 % of total EU imports of the product concerned.

The duration of safeguard measures may not, in principle, exceed four years, unless they are extended under the same conditions as the initial measures were adopted. Under no circumstances may the duration of the measures exceed eight years.

In addition to safeguard measures as such, the regulation stipulates that the Council, on proposal from the Commission, may adopt appropriate measures to allow the rights and obligations of the EU or of all its member countries, in particular those relating to trade in commodities, to be exercised and fulfilled at international level.

This regulation does not preclude the fulfilment of obligations arising from special agreements concluded between the EU and non-EU countries. Nor does it preclude the adoption or application by EU countries of measures on grounds of public order, public morality, public security, the protection of health and life of humans, animals or plants, the protection of national treasures, the protection of industrial and commercial property, and special formalities concerning foreign exchange.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 260/2009


OJ L 84, 31.3.2009

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