Large parts of Germany’s sanctions and export control regime are governed by EU law. Financial sanctions are imposed by the EU, and they are enforced by the EU member states, including Germany (see also the chapters of the EU, France and Italy). The export control regime in Germany, as elsewhere in the EU, is largely rooted in the laws of the member states, but interplays with specific EU regulations, including the EU Dual-Use Regulation (EU No. 2021/821), the EU Common Military List and further specific export control regulations implemented as parts of sanctions packages. That is, Germany has established its export control regime in the German Foreign Trade and Payments Act and in the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance.
Sanctions imposed by the EU take the form of EU regulations and as such are directly applicable in all EU Member States, and therefore also in Germany. As the EU regulations leave to the individual EU Member States how to implement measures against violations of EU sanctions into their respective national laws, such violations are governed by the German Foreign Trade and Payments Act as well as the German Trade and Payments Ordinance. Decisions concerning sanctions are taken unanimously by the Council of the EU on the basis of proposals by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Some types of sanctions, such as travel bans, fall outside the EU’s reach and must be implemented by individual member states.
In Germany, UN sanctions are mostly implemented via EU sanctions, which directly apply in Germany. However, if the implementation in Germany via EU sanctions would require too much time and would thus create a delay between listing by the UN and applicability in Germany, UN sanctions will be implemented by Germany itself based on the Germany Foreign Trade and Payments Act.
Violations of EU sanctions and German foreign trade law, including Germany’s export control regime, may be punished as criminal offenses or as administrative offenses. Intentional violations constitute criminal offenses. Negligent violations constitute administrative offenses.
Under German law, criminal offenses can be committed only by individuals. However, criminal offenses committed by individuals on behalf of or within the scope of their work for a corporation may also lead to liability for the corporation. If the crime was committed by a director or an officer, or the management has failed to install adequate compliance mechanisms, corporations (and members of their top management) may be sentenced to pay administrative fines or to forfeit all economic proceeds.
Germany enforces the EU Blocking Statute. The effect of the EU Blocking Statute is to prohibit compliance by EU entities with, inter alia, the reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran, as well as certain U.S. sanctions on Cuba. The EU does not recognize the extraterritorial application of laws adopted by third countries and views such effects to be contrary to international law. The EU Blocking Statute, inter alia, prohibits compliance with any legal acts listed in that regulation that “purport to regulate activities of natural or legal persons under the jurisdiction of a Member State”. The EU member states are responsible for implementing sanctions to be imposed in the event of a breach. Germany does so by penalizing a breach of the EU Blocking Statute as an administrative offense with a maximum fine of EUR 500,000 and with the potential of additional forfeit of gains.