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28. April 2022: Bernd Lange presents his vision for EU’s future anti-coercion tool

MEP Bernd Lange (S&D, Germany) has circulated to colleagues his first draft of the report on the anti-coercion tool proposed by the European Commission last December (see EUROPE B12849A1). His report broadly retains the nature of the tool proposed by the European Commission, with a slight strengthening of its scope.

Economic coercion means “coercion through a third-country action or measure affecting trade or investment”, according to Bernd Lange. The European Commission had proposed a tighter definition. It included the willingness of the third country “to interfere in the legitimate sovereign choices of the Union or a Member State by seeking to prevent, or obtain the cessation, modification or adoption of a particular act”. The MEP also explains that coercive action by a third country can take “whatever form”.

In the procedure, he proposes several adjustments allowing the European Commission to act more quickly, but also requiring it to act, not just have the option to do so.

For example, when the European Commission receives a “substantiated complaint” about an alleged enforcement action, it is obliged to review the case, according to the MEP. The original proposal only provided that the European Commission “may” examine any third-country measure to determine whether it is a coercive action.

In addition, the European Commission should set a time limit for a third country to submit its comments during the consultation phase and before the Commission imposes its remedies, according to the MEP. The European Commission had not foreseen a timetable for these different stages, justifying a need for flexibility.

Similarly, consultations with other countries affected by alleged coercive action by a third country “shall not unduly delay the application of the instrument”, according to the report.

Bernd Lange also proposes that the third country accused of coercive action should be able to “repair the injury caused” before, during or after the imposition of a retaliatory measure by the EU.

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