Almost four weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its ongoing military aggression, the EU has adopted another – the fourth – package of sanctions against Russia on 15 March 2022. This briefing provides an overview on these latest developments, which concern not only the adding of more oligarchs and regime-affiliated elites to the EU’s sanctions list, but also tighten trade restrictions with respect to, among others, the import of steel products, the trade with luxury goods, including vehicles and their spare parts, as well as transactions with certain Russian state-owned enterprises.

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Over the past two weeks, the EU has adopted various far-reaching sanctions against Russia, the areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine, and Belarus. We have kept you updated of these developments in previous briefings. However, the large number of recent regulations and the resulting various amendments they have brought to the sanctions regime make it difficult not to lose track. Against this backdrop and following our latest briefing on financial sanctions, the following concise overview serves to provide guidance on the restrictions concerning the trade with goods and services.

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The European Commission’s Block Exemption Regulation for Vertical Agreements (VBER) is the most relevant guidance for the assessment of dual distribution agreements under EU competition law. Together with the accompanying Vertical Guidelines, it shapes the application of the antitrust prohibition to various distribution constellations.

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In view of “Russia’s actions destabilising the situation in Ukraine”, as the relevant Regulations coin it, the EU has tightened the financial sanctions on Russia. Introduced via Council Regulations of 25 February, 28 February and 1 March, the revised and newly inserted Articles 5 to 5i of the amended Council Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 seek to largely restrict access to the EU capital market by Russia’s central bank, several major banks and key companies. As announced in our briefing of 26 February 2022 on the EU’s second round of Russia sanctions, we will go into more detail on these sanctions in the following.

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Since last night, the EU has adopted further sanctions against Russia. The new restrictions concern the listing of further persons, including Oligarchs with close ties to President Putin, and the aviation sector. The SWIFT de-coupling is not yet legally implemented.

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On 25 February 2022, the European Union (EU) has agreed upon further sanctions against Russia as a reaction to, as the European Council put it, “the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine.” :

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If the Western states stick to their pronouncements of the past few days, the imposition of further sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine is only a matter of time. The EU has already announced a crisis summit for tonight (24 February 2022), which will lead to a massive tightening of yesterday’s sanctions for Russia’s recognition of independence of Ukrainian’s regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The current sanctions regime consists of two layers:

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The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action was able to fend off an attempt by Taiwanese chip supplier GlobalWafers to have the foreign trade law condition for the Siltronic takeover established by means of an urgent appeal. The Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg dismissed GlobalWafers’ appeal against the ruling of the Berlin Administrative Court passed shortly before (OVG 1 S 10/22).

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While generally, sustainability initiatives and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) become increasingly important for both consumers and investors, the line between strengthening cooperation to achieve sustainability goals and compliance with competition law remains a fine one (see also our briefing of 7 February 2021). The German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has recently examined three sector initiatives aimed at sustainability gains. While the agency did not publish detailed decisions or case reports, some guidance can still be concluded from its findings.

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BLOMSTEIN advises Chinese terminal operator COSCO Shipping Ports Limited (COSCO) on foreign direct investment aspects relating to its entry into the German market. COSCO is acquiring a minority stake of 35 % in Container Terminal Tollerort (CTT) from the Port of Hamburg Hamburger Hafen und Logistik AG (HHLA). The deal is subject to various FDI and merger control clearances.

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