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Common rules for imports into the EU

30 November 2009
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 15 December 2009

This Regulation aims to establish common rules for imports into the European Community based on the principle of the freedom of import and to define the procedures enabling the Community to implement, where necessary, the surveillance and safeguard measures required to protect its interests.



Council Regulation (EC) No 3285/94 of 22 December 1994 on the common rules for imports and repealing Regulation (EC) No 518/94.


This Regulation applies to imports of products originating in third countries except for textile products covered by special rules for imports and products originating from third countries which are subject to that country's own import rules. It is also complementary to the regulations on agricultural products covered by organisations of the market. From a geographical point of view, it applies to imports from all third countries with the exception of Albania, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and certain Asian countries (North Korea, China, Mongolia and Vietnam) covered by Regulation (EC) No 519/94.

The regulation lays down the principle of freedom to import products originating in third countries, subject to possible safeguard measures.

Information and consultation procedure

The Member States must inform the Commission should trends in imports appear to call for safeguard measures. Consultations may be held either at the request of a Member State or on the initiative of the Commission. They take place within an advisory committee made up of representatives of each Member State with a representative of the Commission as chairman.

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

Community 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 Communities summarising the information justifying the initiation of the procedure.

The investigation seeks to determine whether imports of the product in question are causing or threatening to cause serious injury to the Community 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 seeks information on the following aspects: the volume of imports, the price of imports, the consequent impact on Community producers and factors other than trends in imports which are causing or may have caused injury to the Community 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, terminates the investigation or implements, or proposes to the Council that it implement, surveillance or safeguard measures.

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

Surveillance measures

Imports of products may have to undergo Community checks on the basis of a decision by the Council or the Commission should market trends in this product threaten to cause injury to the Community producers of like or competing products, and the Community'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 case of the latter, products under prior Community surveillance may be put into free circulation only on production of an import document. This document is issued or endorsed by the Member States, free of charge, for any quantity requested and within a maximum of five days of receipt of a declaration by the importer. This document must be issued to all importers, regardless of their place of business in the Community.

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

Member States shall 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 Community in such greatly increased quantities and/or on such terms or conditions as to cause, or threaten to cause, serious injury to Community 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, introduce 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 the volume of 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. The quota may be allocated among the supplier countries.

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

These measures are taken by the Commission or by the Council. Where intervention by the Commission has been requested by a Member State, the Commission takes a decision within a maximum of five working days. The Commission's decision is communicated to the Council and to the Member States. Any Member State 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 Community so require, the Council, acting 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 as long as that country's share of Community imports of the product concerned does not exceed 3%.

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 Commission may adopt appropriate measures to allow the rights and obligations of the Community or of all its Member States, 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 Community and third countries. Nor does it preclude the adoption or application by the Member States 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.


Regulation (EC) No 3285/94 - 01.01.1995 - OJ L 349 of 31.12.1994

Amending act:
Regulation (EC) No 139/96 - 30.01.1996 - OJ L 21 of 27.01.1996
Regulation (EC) No 2315/96 - 05.12.1996 - OJ L 314 of 04.12.1996
Regulation (EC) No 2474/2000 - 01.12.2000 - OJ L 286 of 11.11.2000
Regulation (EC) No 2200/2004 - 23.12.2004 - OJ L 374 of 22.12.2004


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