Medical goods from the EU remain blocked

A Swiss ambulance worker dons protective gear last month Keystone

Deliveries of protective equipment to Switzerland are still blocked in France and Germany, despite a European Union directive exempting the export of protective equipment to EFTA states from needing an export permit. 

This content was published on March 25, 2020 - 12:47

A French supplier told a Swiss purchasing group that the French export ban was still in force and that he was therefore unable to supply masks from his warehouse in Lyon, according to CH-Media newspapers, including the Aargauer ZeitungExternal link, on Wednesday. 

Also in Germany a delivery intended for Switzerland was sent back to the main customs office in Mönchengladbach in the northwest of the country after two weeks at customs, the report said. 

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirmed to Swiss public radio, SRFExternal link, that deliveries to Switzerland were blocked in France and Italy. 

SECO told the Swiss News Agency Keystone-SDA that it was aware of the problems and was in contact with the companies and countries concerned. It added that the administration was working “vigorously” on a solution. 

Switzerland was “necessarily dependent on imports from Germany and France, among others”, it continued. “It is of utmost importance for the economy that trade continues to function. In principle, the understanding between Switzerland and the EU in this difficult situation is good.” 

Special regulation for EFTA states 

Last Friday Economics Minister Guy Parmelin announced a “breakthrough” in the supply of protective material from the EU for Switzerland. After several contacts with EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, Brussels instructed EU countries to no longer block exports of protective material to Switzerland and other EFTA states Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. 

Hogan said the reason for the exemption for the four EFTA states was “the deep integration into the Single Market” and the “integration of the value chain and distribution networks”. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had previously announced that ventilators and other products needed to fight the pandemic could only be exported to non-EU countries with the express permission of the government concerned.

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