On 11 December 2017, a Council Decision finally established the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) in defence. The Council Decision was ultimately approved by 25 Member States, less than a month after a joint notification by the ministers of 23 Member States on their intention to participate. Along with the Council Decision, the participating Member States published an initial list of collaborative PESCO projects. These include research, procurement and upgrade projects regarding a variety of sectors, including prototypes for infantry vehicles, autonomous maritime surveillance systems and mine countermeasures, cyber security, radio and indirect fire support solutions, logistic hubs, operational support, military mobility measures and the establishment of a European Medical HQ, as well as training centres.

The pending implementation of PESCO for European defence projects raises a number of questions. We will focus on the effects on future defence procurement.

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On 13 October 2017, President Trump refused to “recertify” the international nuclear understanding with Iran (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA).

On 31 October 2017, 41 individuals and entities associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been designated under US terrorism sanctions. These new designations are part of a growing trend towards unilateral US sanctions imposed without prior consultation or coordination at an international level.

In the following, we give an overview of this trend, taking the recent US developments regarding the JCPOA and the US sanctions on Russia as examples. We examine the potential repercussions of these US sanctions for EU companies and potential reactions by the EU.

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The control of foreign investments has become increasingly important in the last few years. In Germany, the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance (Außenwirtschaftsverordnung – AWV) has recently been amended. Moreover, for the first time, foreign investments in Germany were prohibited. In the USA, prohibitions have increasingly been issued by CFIUS and extremely long durations of proceedings are being reported. On the initiative of Germany, France and Italy, the European Commission (Commission) has now also taken up the issue: On 13 September 2017, the Commission submitted a Proposal for a Regulation Establishing a Framework for Screening of Foreign Direct Investments into the European Union (Regulation Proposal).

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At this year’s Colloquium on Suspension and Debarment, hosted by The World Bank in Washington, D.C. on 14 September 2017, recent developments in suspension and debarment issues worldwide and their various uses in the context of procurement and anti-corruption were examined.

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The failure of the Doha Round and other multilateral efforts to liberalise trade has led to international trade policy occurring mainly on a bilateral level. The EU in particular has followed an active commercial policy in recent years. The aim of the resulting so-called “new generation” Free Trade Agreements is not only to facilitate cross-border trade of products, but also to develop international supply chains, to create mechanisms for the implementation and the enforcement of the law and to open the market as a whole. Hence, Free Trade Agreements include a wide range of regulations, which go beyond classic regulations to reduce tariff and non-tariff trade barriers.

The comprehensive regulatory content of bilateral trade agreements raises the question: does the EU have the competence to conclude such trade agreements? This question was the subject of the request for an opinion by the European Commission before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The proceeding concerned the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore. The court published its highly anticipated opinion on 16 May 2017 (C-2/15 – the Opinion).

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Extended Review Competence and Longer Review Periods for the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy

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In Germany, acquisitions of companies by foreign investors are subject to investment control in certain sensitive areas. The control regime is aimed at safeguarding essential security interests and limiting foreign influence on German key industries and technologies. It varies depending on the industry concerned: A notification and clearing requirement only applies to acquisitions in the areas of certain military and IT security products. Other acquisitions in industries relevant to Germany’s public order or security are subject to voluntary notification. In such cases, companies may ask for a comfort letter from the authorities, the so-called certificate of non-objection.

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In a judgement on 18 January 2017 (C-365/15 – Wortmann) the ECJ stressed that Member States are obliged to pay interest on duties levied in breach of EU law from the date that these duties were paid. The ECJ thus continued its previous case law from cases Jülich II (joined cases C 113/10, C 147/10 and C 234/10), Littlewoods Retail (C-591/10) and Irimie (C-565/11) and extended it to the EU Customs Code’s scope of application. In comparison to the Court’s judgement in Jülich II, achieved under participation of BLOMSTEIN Of Counsel Hans-Joachim Prieß, in this judgement, the ECJ for the first time establishes for “circumstances such as those in the case in the main proceedings” that Article 241 Customs Code (CC) does not exclude the payment of interests – even though this provision generally exempts customs authorities from the obligation to pay interest.

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Donald Trump’s announcement to become a president unlike any Washington has ever seen has materialised in relation to international trade and international relations: Trump wants to make America great again by means of protectionist measures. Which consequences may arise and how can the EU react?

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BLOMSTEIN recently advised the ADM Group on an important customs law question regarding the correct classification of a chemical product used for the manufacture of foodstuffs.

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