The European Commission wants to know why the Czech government banned the export of protective medical equipment at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Czech news portal Echo24.
According to the European Commission, the decision of the Czech authorities went against the principle of an open European market and could have harmed international trade with respirators and other protective equipment.
Reportedly, in late March, the Czech Ministry of Health received a letter from the European Commission requesting an explanation of the regulation. However, it is not yet known what exact questions the European Commission asked, as the Commission’s representatives in Prague only confirmed that they are dealing with the matter.
“Due to the unusual circumstances, setting the market with vital medical supplies, which might be in shortage, correctly, is of key importance. Any restrictions on exports have to be accompanied by measures that, in the spirit of European solidarity and cooperation, ensure that the necessary protective equipment will reach those who need them,” said Martin Svášek, the spokesman of the European Commission Representation in the Czech Republic.
However, the Ministry of Health did not provide any further details.
“The Ministry of Health has received a letter from the European Commission. It is currently working with the Ministry of Industry and Trade on the response while leading preliminary talks with the European Commission. The Commission did not give the Ministry of Health a deadline for the response,” said the spokeswoman of the Health Ministry Gabriela Štěpanyová.
At the end of February, Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch asked the Administration of the State Material Reserves (SSHR) to purchase tens of thousands of face masks worth 10 million korunas (€361,700). At the same time, the Ministry banned the export of protection class FFP3 respirator masks outside the Czech Republic and the sale of them to all but medical facilities. The Ministry of Finance also began to regulate the purchase prices of respirators.
Other countries in the EU have been accused of blocking medical supplies, including France and Germany. Germany has been accused of blocking medical equipment meant to be shipped to Italy and also of blocking medical supplies to Austria.
“It should not happen that we will have to fight alone for two weeks to ensure that the truck with the protective masks we have already paid for and needed urgently gets stuck on the German border. And at the same time, we were criticized for checks at the border with Italy,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to the Kronen Zeitung daily.