Recent Changes in the German Investment Screening Mechanism in Light of the EU Screening Regulation
In 2020 and 2021, the German investment screening laws, namely Außenwirtschaftsgesetz (AWG) and Außenwirtschaftsverordnung (AWV) were again subject to considerable reform induced by new legislation at the European level and a reshaped industry policy agenda at the national level. This article critically reviews the most significant changes brought about by one law (Erstes Gesetz zur Änderung des Außenwirtschaftsgesetzes und anderer Gesetze) and three ordinances (Fünfzehnte, Sechzehnte und Siebzente Verordnung zur Änderung der Außenwirtschaftsverordnung) and provides an overview of the reformed screening procedure. Although claims in this direction have been made, neither the reform nor the underlying Screening Regulation (EU) 2019/452 have altered the objective of review – the protection of public order or security – or bar for governmental intervention – actual and sufficiently serious danger. Both these were not ‘overwritten’ by secondary law and continue to be determined by the pertinent jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. Notwithstanding this, the reform has considerably widened the ‘sensitive sectors’ in which pertinent investments must be notified to and cleared by the authorities. ‘Gun jumping’ is prohibited and parties moving forward nonetheless risk criminal prosecution. Reform has also standardised the deadlines for governmental intervention and brought about procedural clarity. What the many and frequent changes reveal on a more fundamental level is a progressing politicisation and securitisation of investment screening law.