Warsaw, 11th December 2020
Protectionism within the European Union and how to counteract it?
On 11th December 2020, the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers organised a debate titled “Protectionism within the European Union and how to fight it?” with the participation of Aleksandra Frelek-Dębecka, Director of the European Affairs Department at the Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology, Agnieszka Dawidonis-Twardo, from the European Law Department at the Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology, Andrzej Gantner, Director General of the Polish Federation of Food Producers, Marcin Nowacki, Vice-President of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, and Kamila Sotomska, Analyst at the Law and Legislation Department of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers. The debate was moderated by Jakub Bińkowski, Director of the Law and Legislation Department of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers.
The single market is one of the European Union’s greatest achievements to date. Nonetheless, protectionism remains a major problem affecting most entrepreneurs and hampering the development of the single market. Eliminating existing barriers could attract an additional EUR 17 billion in investment annually and generate a further 1.3 million jobs, which are key to restoring the competitiveness of the European economy after the pandemic. In a new report, the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers looks at the problem of protectionism comprehensively and analyses it from a historical, economic, legal, practical and political perspective. During the debate, the panellists presented a number of ways in which to fight protectionism.
“Research conducted with the participation of over 1,150 entrepreneurs from Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia showed that almost 40% of the companies surveyed encountered protectionist practices within the European Union, either in person or through their business partners,” said Marcin Nowacki, Vice-President of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers.
Independently conducted studies by the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers and the European Commission show that administrative practices (e.g. the requirement to submit additional certificates) are the protectionist measures used most frequently. While most can be tackled with a wide range of bans established under EU law, the current legal framework does not appear sufficient to deal with all the problems of the single market.
“Among the most common protectionist practices, Polish exporters name: the use of official food control of a given country to depreciate consumer confidence, sanitary controls with increased frequency in relation to products from Poland, the need for long-term storage of documents, requirements for additional certificates or transport documents, short validity dates of permits or mandatory placement of specific text or markings on packaging. There are also frequent impositions of quality requirements that do not result from EU regulations. An example of such an action is the use of unclear criteria when evaluating products, e.g. a Czech criterion might be described as of insufficient quality,” added Andrzej Gantner, Director General of the Polish Federation of Food Producers.
„EU law offers a wide range of tools to combat protectionist practices by prohibiting the use of import and export duties or charges having equivalent effect, discriminatory taxation on products from other member states, quantitative restrictions and measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions on imports and exports. Nevertheless, the legal framework in force seems insufficient to address all the problems of the common market for several reasons,” noted Kamila Sotomska, Analyst at the Law and Legislation Department of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers.
“The problem of protectionism within the single market is urgent and the crisis caused by the pandemic has only made it worse. There is a growing awareness of the problem among politicians, officials, and entrepreneurs as recognition of the benefits of the single market is growing too and there is still much to be done. Information from the entrepreneurs themselves is very important – and we constantly appeal for feedback! – it provides us with knowledge and arguments, and then we can explain and try to solve these problems – directly with the European Commission and / or bilaterally with other member states. We encourage you to submit applications to the following address: sekretariatDSE@mrpit.gov.pl or to contact the SOLVIT Polska Centre, which acts as an intermediary in solving specific problems such as disputes with the public administration of another member state on issues regulated by EU regulations (https://www.gov.pl/web/rozwoj-praca-technologia/solvit),” emphasised Aleksandra Frelek-Dębecka, Director of the European Affairs Department at the Ministry of Development, Labour and Technology.
fot. Giampaolo Squarcina / ma lic. Flickr.com