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Common EU rules for imports


Regulation (EU) 2015/478 on common rules for imports



The EU operates on the principle that products should be freely imported without being subject to any quantitative restrictions (e.g. quotas), unless there are safeguard measures* in place. For the purpose of transparency, in 2015 the EU published a codified* version of its common rules for imports in order to include the various recent amendments in one piece of legislation.

It lays down:

  • common rules for the import of products into the EU from other countries;
  • the procedure for EU investigation before safeguards are applied, and for surveillance of products that may cause injury to EU producers.


The regulation applies to imports of products originating in non-EU countries, except for:

  • textile products subject to specific import rules under Regulation (EU) 2015/936;
  • products originating in certain non-EU countries listed in Regulation (EU) 2015/755.

EU countries must inform the European Commission if trends in imports appear to call for surveillance or safeguard measures.

EU investigation procedure

The investigation seeks to determine whether imports of a product are causing (or threatening to cause) serious injury* to the EU producers concerned. An investigation must normally be completed in 9 months but, in certain cases, may be extended to 11 months.

It examines the trend in imports, the conditions in which they take place and whether there is serious injury or threat of serious injury to EU producers resulting from such imports.

It considers the following factors:

  • the volume of imports;
  • the price of imports;
  • the consequent impact on European producers of similar or directly competitive products, as indicated by trends in production, capacity utilisation (i.e. the extent to which productive capacity is being used), stocks, sales, market share, prices, profits, return on capital employed, cash flow and employment.

If the investigation shows that imports have increased so much that they cause (or threaten to cause) serious injury to EU producers, the Commission can impose safeguard measures.

Safeguard measures

The EU investigation may lead to quantitative restrictions on imports of the product from any non-EU country. Import quotas should not be lower than the average level of imports over the last 3 representative years for which statistics are available.

  • Provisional measures (over a maximum of 200 days) may be imposed in critical circumstances and if a preliminary determination provides clear evidence of harm or impending harm.
  • Definitive measures must not exceed 4 years (including the duration of any provisional measures) — unless extended, to a maximum of 8 years.

Safeguards apply to all imports of the product in question, from all countries.

Surveillance measures

The investigation may lead to prior or retrospective EU surveillance of a product. Surveillance is a system of automatic import licensing over a period of time. It does not restrict imports either retroactively or in advance. Products under prior surveillance may be put into free circulation, though only upon presentation of an import document endorsed by the competent authority designated by an EU country and valid throughout the EU.

Information and consultation procedure

Before and during the EU investigation procedure, the Commission consults the Safeguard Advisory Committee (representatives of each EU country). The Commission must notify EU countries of any decision it takes on safeguard measures. As a starting point, safeguard measures can be imposed if the EU countries support it by qualified majority. The regulation also provides for other specific voting circumstances

Developing countries

No safeguard measure may be applied to a product originating in a developing country member of the World Trade Organization as long as that country’s share of EU imports of the product concerned does not exceed 3 % and the import share of all developing countries does not account for more than 9 %.


It applies from 16 April 2015.


For more information, see: ‘Import into the EU’ on the European Commission’s website.


* Safeguard measures: these are intended for situations in which an EU industry is affected by a recent, sharp and sudden increase of imports, due to unforeseen developments. They are designed to give the industry a temporary period to restructure.

* Codification: the process of bringing together a legislative act and all its amendments in a single new act.

*Serious injury: a significant overall impairment in the position of EU producers.


Regulation (EU) 2015/478 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015 on common rules for imports (OJ L 83, 27.3.2015, pp. 16-33)


Regulation (EU) 2015/936 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 June 2015 on common rules for imports of textile products from certain third countries not covered by bilateral agreements, protocols or other arrangements, or by other specific Union import rules (OJ L 160, 25.6.2015, pp. 1-54)

Regulation (EU) 2015/755 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2015 on common rules for imports from certain third countries (OJ L 123, 19.5.2015, pp. 33–49)

last update 31.03.2016