1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
As a small country with an open economy, Denmark is highly dependent on foreign trade and investment. Exports comprise the most significant component (60 percent) of GDP. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) ranks Denmark as the world’s sixth-most attractive business environment and the leading nation in the Nordic region. The EIU characterizes Denmark’s business environment as reflecting excellent infrastructure, a friendly policy towards private enterprise and competition, low bureaucracy, and a well-developed digital sector. Principal concerns include low productivity growth, a high personal tax burden, and potential capacity constraints on the labor market. Overall, however, operating conditions for companies are broadly favorable. Denmark ranks highly in multiple categories, including its political and institutional environment, macroeconomic stability, foreign investment policy, private enterprise policy, financing, and infrastructure.
As of February 2022, the EIU rated Denmark an “AA” country on its Country Risk Service, noting the country is on the “cusp of an upgrade.” Denmark ranked tenth out of 140 on the World Economic Forum’s 2019 Global Competitiveness Report and sixth on the EIU 2021 Democracy Index. Denmark has an AAA rating from Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Group. “Invest in Denmark,” an agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and part of the Danish Trade Council, provides detailed information to potential investors. Invest in Denmark has prioritized six sectors in its strategy to attract foreign investment: tech, cleantech, life sciences, food, maritime, and design and innovation. The website for the agency is https://investindk.com .
As an EU member state, Denmark is bound by EU rules on the free movement of goods, capital, persons, and certain services. Denmark welcomes foreign investment and does not discriminate between EU and other investors.
Denmark’s central and regional governments actively encourage foreign investment on a national-treatment basis, with relatively few foreign control limits, nor any reported bias against foreign companies from municipal or national authorities when compared to domestic investors. A foreign investment screening mechanism came into force July 1, 2021, to prevent threats to national security and public order from foreign direct investment, but there are otherwise no additional permits required by foreign investors. The mechanism requires mandatory notification for five sectors and allows for voluntary notification for all sectors. The sectors requiring mandatory notification are defense, IT security and processing of classified information, companies producing dual-use items, critical technology, and critical infrastructure. Mandatory notification applies for investments reaching 10 percent ownership or control, and voluntary notification can be made for investments where the company reaches 25 percent ownership or control. A pre-screening process exists to determine if the investment is in the critical technology or critical infrastructure sector. Notification and guidance all take place online, handled by the Danish Business Authority: https://businessindenmark.virk.dk/topics/Economy/Investments/
A foreign or domestic private entity may freely establish, own, and dispose of a business enterprise in Denmark. The capital requirement for establishing a corporation (Aktieselskab A/S) or Limited Partnership (Partnerselskab P/S) is $63,000 (DKK 400,000) and for establishing a private limited liability company (Anpartsselskab ApS) $6.300 (DKK 40,000). In 2019, the government lowered the capital requirements to set up a private limited liability company, which brought Denmark more in line with other Scandinavian countries. No restrictions apply regarding the residency of directors and managers.
Since October 2004, any private entity may establish a European public limited company (SE company) in Denmark. The legal framework of an SE company is subject to Danish corporate law, but it is possible to change the nationality of the company without liquidation and re-founding. An SE company must be registered at the Danish Business Authority if its official address is in Denmark. The minimum capital requirement is $137,000 (EUR 120,000).
Danish professional certification and/or local Danish experience are required to provide professional services in Denmark. In some instances, Denmark may accept equivalent professional certification from other EU or Nordic countries on a reciprocal basis. EU-wide residency requirements apply to the provision of legal and accountancy services.
In addition to investment screening cases, ownership restrictions apply to the following sectors:
Oil and Gas: Requires 20 percent Danish government participation on a “non-carried interest” basis.
Defense: The Minister of Justice must approve foreign investment in defense companies doing business in Denmark if such investment exceeds 40 percent of the equity or more than 20 percent of the voting rights, or if the investment gives the foreign interest a controlling share. This approval is generally granted unless there are security or other foreign policy considerations weighing against approval.
Maritime Services: There are foreign (non-EU resident) ownership requirements on Danish-flagged vessels other than those owned by an enterprise incorporated in Denmark. Ships owned by Danish citizens, Danish partnerships, or Danish limited liability companies are eligible for registration in the Danish International Ships Register (DIS). Vessels owned by EU or European Economic Area (EEA) entities with a genuine, demonstrable link to Denmark are also eligible for registration. Foreign companies with a significant Danish interest can register a ship in the DIS.
Civil Aviation: For an airline to be established in Denmark, it must have majority ownership and be effectively controlled by an EU state or a national of an EU state, unless otherwise provided for through an international agreement to which the EU is a signatory.
Financial Services: Non-resident financial institutions may engage in securities trading on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange only through subsidiaries incorporated in Denmark.
Real Estate: Ownership of holiday homes, also known as summer houses, is restricted to Danish citizens. Such homes are generally located along the Danish coastline and may not be used as full-year residences. On a case-by-case basis, the Ministry of Justice may waive the citizenship requirement for those with close familial, linguistic, cultural, or other close connections to Denmark or the specific property. In general, EU and EEA citizens may purchase full-year residential property or real estate that supports self-employment without obtaining prior authorization from the Ministry of Justice. Companies domiciled in an EU or an EEA Member State that have set up or will set up subsidiaries or agencies or will provide services in Denmark may, in general, also purchase real property in Denmark without prior authorization. Non-EU/EEA citizens must obtain authorization from the Ministry of Justice to purchase real estate in Denmark, which is generally granted to those with permanent residence in Denmark or who have lived in Denmark for a consecutive period of five years.
The most recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) review of Denmark occurred in March 2013 and is available here: unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/webdiaeia2013d2_en.pdf . There is no specific mention of Denmark in the latest WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union, revised in December 2019.
The EU Commission’s European Semester documents for Denmark are available here: ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/economic-and-fiscal-policy-coordination/eu-economic-governance-monitoring-prevention-correction/european-semester/european-semester-your-country/denmark_en A 2017 Foreign Investment Regulation review by DLA Piper can be found here: www.dlapiper.com/~/media/files/insights/publications/2017/11/denmark.pdf
Denmark ranked first out of 180 in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. In the IMD 2021 World Competitiveness Ranking, Denmark ranked third out of 64 countries. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ranked Denmark ninth out of 132 in its 2021 Global Innovation Index.
The Danish Business Authority (DBA) is responsible for business registrations in Denmark. As a part of the DBA, “Business in Denmark” provides information on relevant Danish rules and online registrations to foreign companies in English. The Danish business registration website, www.virk.dk , is the principal digital tool for licensing and registering companies in Denmark and offers a business registration process that is clear and complete.
Registration of sole proprietorships and partnerships is free of charge. For other types of businesses, online registration costs $106 (DKK 670). Registration by email or mail costs $341 (DKK 2,150).
The process for establishing a new business is distinct from that of registration. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ “Invest in Denmark” program provides a step-by-step guide to establishing a business at https://investindk.com/publications/step-by-step-guide-to-do-business-in-denmark , along with other relevant resources at https://investindk.com/our-services/how-to-set-up-a-business-in-denmark . The services are free of charge and available to all investors, regardless of country of origin.
The processing time for establishing a new business varies depending on the chosen business entity. Establishing a Danish private limited liability company (ApS), for example, generally takes four to six weeks for a standard application. Establishing a sole proprietorship (Enkeltmandsvirksomhed) is more straightforward, with processing generally taking about one week.
Those providing temporary services in Denmark must provide their company details to the Registry of Foreign Service Providers (RUT). The website ( www.virk.dk ) provides English guidance on registering a service with RUT. A public digital signature, referred to as a NemID or its replacement MitID, is required for those wishing to register a foreign company in Denmark. A CPR number (a 10-digit personal identification number) and valid identification are needed to obtain a NemID/MitID. Danish citizenship is not a requirement.
Denmark defines small enterprises as those with fewer than 50 employees. Annual revenue or the yearly balance sheet total must be lower than $14.1 million (DKK 89 million) or $7.0 million (DKK 44 million), respectively. Medium-sized enterprises cannot have more than 250 employees. Limits on annual revenue or the yearly balance sheet total are $49.7 million (DKK 313 million) or $24.8 million (DKK 156 million).
Danish companies are not restricted from investing abroad, and Danish outward investment has exceeded inward investments for more than a decade.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Property rights in Denmark are well protected by law and in practice. Real estate is chiefly financed through the well-established Danish mortgage bond credit system, the security of which compares to that of government bonds. In compliance with the covered bond definition in the EU Capital Requirements Directive (CRD), the Danish mortgage banking regulation allows for commercial banks to have the same opportunities as mortgage banks and ship-financing institutions to issue covered bonds. Only issuers that have been granted a license from the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) are permitted to issue Danish covered bonds.
Secured interests in property are recognized and enforced in Denmark. All mortgage credits in real estate are recorded in local public registers of mortgages. Except for interests in cars and commercial ships, which are also publicly recorded, other property interests are generally unrecorded. The local public registers are a reliable system of recording security interests. Denmark ranked ninth out of 129 countries in the Property Rights Alliance’s International Property Rights Index 2021, and sixth in its region.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) in Denmark are well protected and enforced. Denmark has ratified and adheres to key international conventions and treaties concerning protection of IPR, including the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and several treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at www.wipo.int/directory/en .
A list of attorneys in Denmark known to accept foreign clients can be found at dk.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys. This list of attorneys and law firms is provided by the U.S. Embassy as a convenience to U.S. citizens. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list of attorneys in Denmark, and the absence of an attorney from the list is in no way a reflection on competence. A complete list of attorneys in Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands may be found at the Danish Bar Association web site: www.advokatnoeglen.dk .
Denmark is perceived as the least corrupt country in the world according to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, which has local representation in Denmark. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for combating corruption, which is covered under the Danish Penal Code. Penalties for violations range from fines to imprisonment of up to four years for a private individual’s involvement and up to six years for a public employee’s involvement. Since 1998, Danish businesses cannot claim a tax deduction for the cost of bribes paid to officials abroad.
Denmark is a signatory to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery, the UN Anticorruption Convention, and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery. In the Working Group’s 2015 Phase 3 follow-up report on Denmark, the Working Group concluded “that Denmark has partially implemented most of its Phase 3 recommendations. However, concerns remain over Denmark’s enforcement of the foreign bribery offence.”
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
The Danish State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime
Kampmannsgade, 11604 København V
Phone: +45 72 68 90 00
Fax: +45 45 15 01 19
To report any knowledge of corruption within Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs development assistance agency DANIDA projects or among staff, or DANIDA partners:
Contact at a “watchdog” organization:
Transparency International Danmark
c/o CBSDalgas Have 15, 2. sal, lokale V.2.352000 Frederiksberg
Contact at Embassy Copenhagen responsible for combating corruption:
U.S. Department of State
Dag Hammarskjolds Alle 24, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
+45 3341 7100
France and Monaco
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
France welcomes foreign investment. In the current economic climate, the French government sees foreign investment as a means to create additional jobs and stimulate growth. Investment regulations are simple, and a range of financial incentives are available to foreign investors. Surveys of U.S. investors in 2021 showed the greatest optimism about the business operating environment in France since 2008. U.S. companies find France’s good infrastructure, advanced technology, and central location in Europe attractive. France’s membership in the European Union (EU) and the Eurozone facilitates the efficient movement of people, services, capital, and goods. However, notwithstanding recent French efforts at structural reform, including a reduction in corporate and production tax, and advocacy for a global minimum tax within the European Union, perceived disincentives to investing in France include the persistently high tax environment, ongoing labor law rigidity, and a shortage of skilled labor.
France is among the least restrictive countries for foreign investment. With a few exceptions in certain specified sectors, there are no statutory limits on foreign ownership of companies. Foreign entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.
France maintains a national security review mechanism to screen high-risk investments. French law stipulates that control by acquisition of a domiciled company or subsidiary operating in certain sectors deemed crucial to France’s national interests relating to public order, public security and national defense are subject to prior notification, review, and approval by the Economy and Finance Minister. Other sectors requiring approval include energy infrastructure; transportation networks; public water supplies; electronic communication networks; public health protection; and installations vital to national security. In 2018, four additional categories – semiconductors, data storage, artificial intelligence and robotics – were added to the list requiring a national security review. For all listed sectors, France can block foreign takeovers of French companies according to the provisions of the 2014 Montebourg Decree.
On December 31, 2019 the government issued a decree to lower the threshold for vetting of foreign investment from outside Europe from 33 to 25 percent and then lowered it again to 10 percent on July 22, 2020, a temporary provision to prevent predatory investment during the COVID-19 crisis. This lower threshold is set to expire at the end of 2022. The decree also enhanced government-imposed conditions and penalties in cases of non-compliance and introduced a mechanism to coordinate the national security review of foreign direct investments with the European Union (EU Regulation 2019/452). The new European rules entered into force on October 11, 2020. The list of strategic sectors was also expanded to include the following activities listed in the EU Regulation 2019/452: agricultural products, when such products contribute to national food supply security; the editing, printing, or distribution of press publications related to politics or general matters; and R&D activities relating to quantum technologies and energy storage technologies. Separately, France expanded the scope of sensitive sectors on April 30, 2020, to include biotechnology companies.
Procedurally, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Recovery has 30 business days following the receipt of a request for authorization to either: 1) declare that the investor is not required to obtain such authorization; 2) grant its authorization without conditions; or 3) declare that an additional review is required to determine whether a conditional authorization is sufficient to protect national interests. If an additional review is required, the Minister has an additional 45 business days to either clear the transaction (possibly subject to conditions) or prohibit it. The Minister is further allowed to deny clearance based on the investor’s ties with a foreign government or public authority. The absence of a decision within the applicable timeframe is a de facto rejection of the authorization.
The government also expanded the breadth of information required in the approval request. For example, a foreign investor must now disclose any financial relationship with or significant financial support from a State or public entity; a list of French and foreign competitors of the investor and of the target; or a signed statement that the investor has not, over the past five years, been subject to any sanctions for non-compliance with French FDI regulations.
In 2020, the government blocked at least one transaction—the attempted acquisition of a French firm by a U.S. company in the defense sector. In early 2021, the French government blocked the acquisition of French supermarket chain Carrefour by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard on the basis that it was a threat to France’s food security and national sovereignty.
France has not recently been the subject of international organizations’ investment policy reviews. The OECD Economic Survey for France (November 2021) can be found here: https://www.oecd.org/economy/france-economic-snapshot/ .
Business France is a government agency established with the purpose of promoting new foreign investment, expansion, technology partnerships, and financial investment. Business France provides services to help investors understand regulatory, tax, and employment policies as well as state and local investment incentives and government support programs. Business France also helps companies find project financing and equity capital. The agency unveiled a website in English to help prospective businesses that are considering investments in the French market ( https://www.businessfrance.fr/en/invest-in-France ). The U.S. Embassy in Paris also collaborated with Business France to create a map of U.S. investment in each region of France ( https://investinfrance.fr/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Entreprises-americaines.pdf ).
In addition, France’s public investment bank, Bpifrance, assists foreign businesses to find local investors when setting up a subsidiary in France. It also supports foreign startups in France through the government’s French Tech Ticket program, which provides them with funding, a resident’s permit, and incubation facilities. Both business facilitation mechanisms provide for equitable treatment of women and minorities.
President Macron prioritized innovation early in his five-year mandate. In 2017, he launched a €10 billion ($11 billion) fund to back disruptive innovation in energy, the digital sector, and the climate transition by privatizing state-owned enterprises and introduced a four-year tech visa for entrepreneurs to come to France. He also introduced tax reforms that would tax capital gains, interest and dividends at a flat 30 percent, instead of the existing top rate of 45 percent.
In June 2020, the French government introduced a new €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) plan to support French startups, concentrating on the health, quantum, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity sectors. The plan included the creation of a €500 million ($550 million) investment fund to help startups overcome the COVID-19 crisis and continue to innovate. It also comprised a “French Tech Sovereignty Fund” launched in December 2020 by France’s public investment bank Bpifrance, with an initial commitment of €150 million ($165 million).
In October 2021, President Macron unveiled a €34 billion ($37.4billion) innovation investment strategy between 2022 and 2027, which mirrors the priorities of the European Commission’s investments in digital innovation and decarbonisation. France will invest by 2030 in breakthrough innovation in a wide variety of areas, including small nuclear fission reactors, green hydrogen production facilities, the production of two million electric and hybrid vehicles every year, research on developing France’s first low-carbon airplane, healthy and sustainable foods, and 20 drugs for cancer and chronic diseases as well as the development of new medical devices. Major industrial groups are encouraged to work with startups, which will also benefit from funding under this new plan. This plan comes on top of the €20 billion ($22 billion) from the 2021 Fourth Future Investment Program. A new Secretary General for Investment was appointed in January 2022 to ensure the coordination of these two innovation programs.
France’s sectors that traditionally attracted the most investment include aeronautics, agro-foods, digital, nuclear, rail, auto, chemicals and materials, forestry, eco-industries, shipbuilding, health, luxury, and extractive industries. However, Business France and Bpifrance are particularly interested in attracting foreign investment in the tech sector. The French government has developed the “French Tech” initiative to promote France as a location for start-ups and high-growth digital companies. French Tech offices have been established in 17 French cities and over 100 cities globally, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Moscow, and Berlin. French Tech has special programs to provide support to startups at various stages of their development. The latest effort has been the creation of the French Tech 120 Program, which provides financial and administrative support to some 123 most promising tech companies. In 2019, €5 billion ($5.9 billion) in venture funding was raised by French startups, an increase of nearly threefold since 2015. Venture capital investment in French startups has doubled from €5.1 billion ($5.6 billion) in 2020 to over €10 billion ($11 billion) in 2021.
In March 2021, France launched, with the support of the European Commission and other member states, the Scale-Up Europe initiative bringing together over 300 start-up and scale-up founders, investors, researchers, and corporations, with the goal of creating 10 tech giants each valued at more than €100 billion ($110 billion) by 2030. French authorities supported the Scale-up Europe initiative designed to promote businesses across Europe to expand beyond their local and European markets. As part of that initiative, on February 8, 2022, France inaugurated a new European Investment Fund designed to increase European venture capital funds’ capacity to provide late-stage funding to EU-based start-ups and scale-ups. France and Germany have each committed €1 billion ($1.1 billion), along with €500 million ($565 million) from the European Investment Bank.
The website Guichet Enterprises ( https://www.guichet-entreprises.fr/fr/ ) is designed to be a one-stop website for registering a business. The site, managed by the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), is available in both French and English although some fact sheets on regulated industries are only available in French on the website.
French firms invest more in the United States than in any other country and support approximately 765,100 American jobs. Total French investment in the United States reached $314.9 billion in 2020. France was still our tenth largest trading partner with approximately $115.7 billion in bilateral trade in 2021. The business promotion agency Business France also assists French firms with outward investment, which it does not restrict.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Real property rights are regulated by the French civil code and are uniformly enforced. The World Bank’s Doing Business Index ranks France 32nd of 190 on registering property. French civil-law notaries (notaires) – highly specialized lawyers in private practice appointed as public officers by the Justice Ministry – handle residential and commercial conveyance and registration, contract drafting, company formation, successions, and estate planning. The official system of land registration (cadastre) is maintained by the French public land registry under the auspices of the French tax authority (Direction Generale des Finances Publiques or DGFiP), available online at http://www.cadastre.gouv.fr . Mortgages are widely available, usually for a 15-year period.
France is a strong defender of intellectual property rights (IPR). Under the French system, patents and trademarks protect industrial property, while copyrights protect literary/artistic property. By virtue of the Paris Convention , U.S. nationals have a priority period following filing of an application for a U.S. patent or trademark in which to file a corresponding application in France: twelve months for patents and six months for trademarks.
Counterfeiting is a costly problem for French companies, and the government of France maintains strong legal protections and a robust enforcement mechanism to combat trafficking in counterfeit goods — from copies of luxury goods to fake medications — as well as the theft and illegal use of IPR. The French Intellectual Property Code has been updated repeatedly over the years to address this challenge, most recently in 2019 with the implementation of the so-called Action Plan for Business Growth and Transformation or PACTE Law (Plan d’Action pour la Croissance et la Transformation des Entreprises). This law reinforced France’s anti-counterfeiting legislation and implemented EU Directive 2015/2436 of the Trademark Reform Package. It increased the Euro amount for damages to companies that are victims of counterfeiting and extends trademark protection to smartcard technology, certain geographic indications, plants, and agricultural seeds. The legislation also increased the statute of limitations for civil suits from three to ten years and strengthened the powers of customs officials to seize fake goods sent by mail or express freight. France also adopted legislation in 2019 to implement EU Directive 2019/790 on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market.
The government also reports on seizures of counterfeit goods. On February 22, 2021, the government launched a new French customs action plan to combat counterfeiting for the 2021-2022 calendar year. Customs seizures in France have increased from 200,000 in 1994 to 5.64 million in 2020, and a record 9.1 million in 2021 (+ 62.5 percent compared to 2020). This new action plan focuses on improved intelligence gathering, investigation, litigation, and cooperation between all the stakeholders involved, including the Customs Office, which investigates fraud cases; the National Institute of Industrial Property, which oversees patents, trademarks, and industrial design rights; and France’s top private sector anti-counterfeiting organization, UNIFAB.
France has robust laws against online piracy. A law on the regulation and protection of public access to cultural works in the digital era approved by Parliament on September 29, 2021 established the Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communication (ARCOM) from the merger of the French Audiovisual Authority (CSA) and the French digital piracy agency HADOPI (High Authority for the Dissemination of Artistic Works and the Protection of Rights on Internet or Haute Autorite pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet). The HADOPI element of ARCOM administers a “graduated response” system of warnings and fines and has taken enforcement action against several online pirate sites. HADOPI traditionally cooperates closely with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) including pursuing voluntary arrangements to single out awareness about intermediaries that facilitate or fund pirate sites. The new law grants ARCOM wider investigative powers to close down mirror sites, as well as blacklist and block access to websites that repeatedly infringe on copyrights. The bill also introduces a fast-track remedy to prevent the illegal broadcast of sporting events. The establishment of this new authority was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new authority was finally established in January 2022. The government also issued an order on May 12, 2021, enforcing in France the EU Directive on Copyright and Related Rights in the Digital Single Market (CDSM), which holds content-sharing platforms liable for the unauthorized communication of copyrighted content. The United States will continue to monitor ways this legislation may impact U.S. stakeholders.
France does not appear on USTR’s 2020 Special 301 Report. USTR’s 2020 Notorious Market report continues to list France as host to illicit streaming and copyright infringement websites. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
In line with President Macron’s campaign promise to clean up French politics, the French parliament adopted in September 2017 the law on “Restoring Confidence in Public Life.” The new law bans elected officials from employing family members, or working as a lobbyist or consultant while in office. It also bans lobbyists from paying parliamentary, ministerial, or presidential staff and requires parliamentarians to submit receipts for expenses.
France’s “Transparency, Anti-corruption, and Economic Modernization Law,” also known as the “Loi Sapin II,” came into effect on June 1, 2017. It brought France’s legislation in line with European and international standards. Key aspects of the law include: creating a new anti-corruption agency; establishing “deferred prosecution” for defendants in corruption cases and prosecuting companies (French or foreign) suspected of bribing foreign public officials abroad; requiring lobbyists to register with national institutions; and expanding legal protections for whistleblowers. The Sapin II law also established a High Authority for Transparency in Public Life (HATVP). The HATVP promotes transparency in public life by publishing the declarations of assets and interests it is legally authorized to share publicly. After review, declarations of assets and statements of interests of members of the government are published on the High Authority’s website under open license. The declarations of interests of members of Parliament and mayors of big cities and towns, but also of regions are also available on the website. In addition, the declarations of assets of parliamentarians can be accessed in certain governmental buildings, though not published on the internet.
France is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The U.S. Embassy in Paris has received no specific complaints from U.S. firms of unfair competition in France in recent years. France ranked 22rd of 180 countries on Transparency International’s (TI) 2021 corruption perceptions index. See https://www.transparency.org/country/FRA .
The Central Office for the Prevention of Corruption (Service Central de Prevention de la Corruption or SCPC) was replaced in 2017 by the new national anti-corruption agency – the Agence Francaise Anticorruption (AFA). The AFA is charged with preventing corruption by establishing anti-corruption programs, making recommendations, and centralizing and disseminating information to prevent and detect corrupt officials and company executives. The French anti-corruption agency guidelines can be found here: https://www.agence-francaise-anticorruption.gouv.fr/files/2021-03/French%20AC%20Agency%20Guidelines%20.pdf . The AFA will also administrative authority to review the anticorruption compliance mechanisms in the private sector, in local authorities and in other government agencies.
Contact information for Agence Française Anti-corruption (AFA):
Director: Charles Duchaine
23 avenue d’Italie
Tel : (+33) 1 44 87 21 14
Contact information for Transparency International’s French affiliate:
Transparency International France
14, passage Dubail
Tel: (+33) 1 84 16 95 65;
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
The German government and industry actively encourage foreign investment. U.S. investment continues to account for the largest share of Germany’s FDI. The 1956 U.S.-Federal Republic of Germany Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation affords U.S. investors national treatment and provides for the free movement of capital between the United States and Germany. As an OECD member, Germany adheres to the OECD National Treatment Instrument and the OECD Codes of Liberalization of Capital Movements and of Invisible Operations. The Foreign Trade and Payments Act and the Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance provide the legal basis for the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (MEC) to review acquisitions of domestic companies by foreign buyers and to assess whether these transactions pose a risk to the public order or national security (for example, when the investment pertains to critical infrastructure). For many decades Germany has experienced significant inbound investment, which is widely recognized as a considerable contributor to Germany’s growth and prosperity. The investment-related challenges facing foreign companies are broadly the same as those that face domestic firms, e.g., relatively high tax rates and energy costs, stringent environmental regulations, and labor laws that complicate hiring and dismissals. Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, provides extensive information for investors: https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest
Under German law, a foreign-owned company registered in the Federal Republic of Germany as a GmbH (limited liability company) or an AG (joint stock company) is treated the same as a German-owned company. There are no special nationality requirements for directors or shareholders.
Companies seeking to open a branch office in Germany without establishing a new legal entity, (e.g., for the provision of employee placement services, such as providing temporary office support, domestic help, or executive search services), must register and have at least one representative located in Germany.
While there are no economy-wide limits on foreign ownership or control, Germany maintains an elaborate mechanism to screen foreign investments based on national security grounds. The legislative basis for the mechanism (the Foreign Trade and Payments Act and Foreign Trade and Payments Ordinance) has been amended several times in recent years to tighten parameters of the screening as technological threats evolve, particularly to address growing interest by foreign investors in both Mittelstand (mid-sized) and blue-chip German companies. Germany amended its investment screening mechanism May 1, 2021 and has now fully implemented the EU Screening Directive. With the amendment, firms must notify MEC of foreign investments and MEC can then screen investments in sensitive sectors and technologies if the buyer plans to acquire 10 percent or more of the company’s voting rights and may be required, regardless, for a non-EU company acquiring more than 25 percent of voting rights ( https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/EN/Artikel/Foreign-Trade/investment-screening.html ).
In the screening process, MEC considers “stockpile acquisitions” by the same investor in a German company or “atypical control investments” where an investor secures additional influence in company operations via side contractual agreements. MEC can also factor in combined acquisitions by multiple investors if all are controlled by one foreign government. The total time for the screening process, depending on the sensitivities of the investment, may take up 10 to 12 months. BMWK – Investment screening (bmwi.de)
The World Bank Group’s “Doing Business 2020” Index provides additional information on Germany’s investment climate. [Note: this report is no longer updated]. The American Chamber of Commerce in Germany publishes results of an annual survey of U.S. investors in Germany (“AmCham Germany Transatlantic Business Barometer.” https://www.amcham.de/publications ).
Before engaging in commercial activities, companies and business operators must register in public directories, the two most significant of which are the commercial register (Handelsregister) and the trade office register (Gewerberegister).
Applications for registration at the commercial register ( www.handelsregister.de ) are electronically filed in publicly certified form through a notary. The commercial register provides information about all relevant relationships between merchants and commercial companies, including names of partners and managing directors, capital stock, liability limitations, and insolvency proceedings. Registration costs vary depending on the size of the company. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020, the median duration to register a business in Germany is eight days, though some firms have experienced longer processing times.
Germany Trade and Invest (GTAI), the country’s economic development agency, can assist in the registration processes ( https://www.gtai.de/gtai-en/invest/investment-guide/establishing-a-company/business-registration-65532 ) and advises investors, including micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), on how to obtain incentives.
In the EU, MSMEs are defined as follows:
- Micro-enterprises: fewer than 10 employees and less than €2 million annual turnover or less than €2 million in balance sheet total.
- Small enterprises: fewer than 50 employees and less than €10 million annual turnover or less than €10 million in balance sheet total.
- Medium-sized enterprises: fewer than 250 employees and less than €50 million annual turnover or less than €43 million in balance sheet total.
U.S.-based exporters seeking to sell in Germany (e.g., via commercial platforms) are required to register with one specific tax authority in Bonn, which can lead to significant delays due to capacity issues.
Germany’s federal government provides guarantees for investments by Germany-based companies in developing and emerging economies and countries in transition in order to insure them against political risks. In order to receive guarantees, the investment must have adequate legal protection in the host country. The Federal Government does not insure against commercial risks. In 2020, the government issued investment guarantees amounting to €900 million for investment projects in 13 countries, with the majority of those in China and India.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The German Government adheres to a policy of national treatment, which considers property owned by foreigners as fully protected under German law. In Germany, mortgage approvals are based on recognized and reliable collateral. Secured interests in property, both chattel and real, are recognized and enforced. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, it takes an average of 52 days to register property in Germany.
The German Land Register Act dates to 1897. The land register mirrors private real property rights and provides information on the legal relationship of the estate. It documents the owner, rights of third persons, as well as liabilities and restrictions. Any change in property of real estate must be registered in the land registry to make the contract effective. Land titles are now maintained in an electronic database and can be consulted by persons with a legitimate interest.
Germany has a robust regime to protect intellectual property rights (IPR). Legal structures are strong and enforcement is good. Nonetheless, internet piracy and counterfeit goods remain issues, and specific infringing websites are occasionally included in USTR’s Notorious Markets List. Germany has been a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 1970. The German Central Customs Authority annually publishes statistics on customs seizures of counterfeit and pirated goods. The statistics for 2020 are available at
Germany is party to the major international IPR agreements: the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Universal Copyright Convention, the Geneva Phonograms Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Brussels Satellite Convention, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Many of the latest developments in German IPR law are derived from European legislation with the objective to make applications less burdensome and allow for European IPR protection.
The following types of protection are available:
Copyrights: National treatment is granted to foreign copyright holders, including remuneration for private recordings. Under the TRIPS Agreement, Germany grants legal protection for U.S. performing artists against the commercial distribution of unauthorized live recordings in Germany. Germany is party to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, which came into force in 2010. Most rights holder organizations regard German authorities’ enforcement of IP rights as effective. In 2008, Germany implemented the EU Directive (2004/48/EC) on IPR enforcement with a national bill, thereby strengthening the privileges of rights holders and allowing for improved enforcement action. Germany implemented the Digital Single Market Directive with the “Act to Adapt Copyright Law to the Requirements of the Digital Single Market,” which entered into force on June 7, 2021. This new law implemented necessary changes to the German Copyright Act. As part of the implementing legislation parliament passed the new Copyright Service Provider Act, which entered into force on August 1, 2021.
Trademarks: National treatment is granted to foreigners seeking to register trademarks at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. Protection is valid for a period of ten years and can be extended in ten-year periods. It is possible to register for trademark and design protection nationally in Germany or for an EU Trade Mark and/or Registered Community Design at the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). These provide protection for industrial design or trademarks in the entire EU market. Both national trademarks and European Union Trade Marks (EUTMs) can be applied for from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as part of an international trademark registration system, or the applicant may apply directly for those trademarks from EUIPO at https://euipo.europa.eu/ohimportal/en/home .
Patents: National treatment is granted to foreigners seeking to register patents at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. Patents are granted for technical inventions that are new, involve an inventive step, and are industrially applicable. However, applicants having neither a domicile nor an establishment in Germany must appoint a patent attorney in Germany as a representative filing the patent application. The documents must be submitted in German or with a translation into German. The duration of a patent is 20 years from the patent application filing date. Patent applicants can request accelerated examination under the Global Patent Prosecution Highway (GPPH) when filing the application, provided that the patent application was previously filed at the USPTO and that at least one claim had been determined to be patentable. There are a number of differences between U.S. and German patent law, including the filing systems (“first-inventor-to-file” versus “first-to-file”, respectively), which a qualified patent attorney can explain to U.S. patent applicants. German law also offers the possibility to register designs and utility models.
A U.S. applicant may file a patent in multiple European countries through the European Patent Office (EPO), which grants European patents for the contracting states to the European Patent Convention (EPC). The 38 contracting states include the entire EU membership and several additional European countries; Germany joined the EPC in 1977. It should be noted that some EPC members require a translation of the granted European patent in their language for validation purposes. The EPO provides a convenient single point to file a patent in as many of these countries as an applicant would like: https://www.epo.org/applying/basics.html . U.S. applicants seeking patent rights in multiple countries can alternatively file an international Patent Coordination Treaty (PCT) application with the USPTO.
Trade Secrets: Trade secrets are protected in Germany by the Law for the Protection of Trade Secrets, which has been in force since April 2019 and implements the 2016 EU Directive (2016/943). According to the law, the illegal accessing, appropriation, and copying of trade secrets, including through social engineering, is prohibited. Explicitly exempt from the law is “reverse engineering” of a publicly available item, and appropriation, usage, or publication of a trade secret to protect a “legitimate interest,”, including journalistic research and whistleblowing. The law requires companies implement “adequate confidentiality measures” for information to be protected as a trade secret under the law. Owners of trade secrets are entitled to omission, compensation, and information about the culprit, as well as the destruction, return, recall, and ultimately the removal of the infringing products from the market.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IPR offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/ .
For additional information about how to protect IPR in Germany, please see Germany Trade & Invest website at https://www.gtai.de/en/invest/investment-guide/company-set-up
Statistics on the seizure of counterfeit goods are available through the German Customs Authority (Zoll):
Businesses can also join the Anti-counterfeiting Association (APM):
Among industrialized countries, Germany ranks 10th out of 180, according to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index. Some sectors including the automotive industry, construction sector, and public contracting, exert political influence and political party finance remains only partially transparent. Nevertheless, U.S. firms have not identified corruption as an impediment to investment in Germany. Germany is a signatory of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.
Over the last two decades, Germany has increased penalties for the bribery of German officials, corrupt practices between companies, and price-fixing by companies competing for public contracts. It has also strengthened anti-corruption provisions on financial support extended by the official export credit agency and has tightened the rules for public tenders. Government officials are forbidden from accepting gifts linked to their jobs. Most state governments and local authorities have contact points for whistleblowing and provisions for rotating personnel in areas prone to corruption. There are serious penalties for bribing officials and price fixing by companies competing for public contracts.
To prevent corruption, Germany relies on the existing legal and regulatory framework consisting of various provisions under criminal law, public service law, and other rules for the administration at both federal and state levels. The framework covers internal corruption prevention, accounting standards, capital market disclosure requirements, and transparency rules, among other measures.
According to the Federal Criminal Office, in 2020, 50.6 percent of all corruption cases were directed towards the public administration (down from 73 percent in 2018), 33.2 percent towards the business sector (down from 39 percent in 2019), 13.4 percent towards law enforcement and judicial authorities (up from 9 percent in 2019), and 2 percent to political officials (unchanged compared to 2018).
Parliamentarians are subject to financial disclosure laws that require them to publish earnings from outside employment. Disclosures are available to the public via the Bundestag website (next to the parliamentarians’ biographies) and in the Official Handbook of the Bundestag. Penalties for noncompliance can range from an administrative fine to as much as half of a parliamentarian’s annual salary. In early 2021, several parliamentarians stepped down due to inappropriate financial gains made through personal relationships to businesses involved in the procurement of face masks during the initial stages of the pandemic.
Donations by private persons or entities to political parties are legally permitted. However, if they exceed €50,000, they must be reported to the President of the Bundestag, who is required to immediately publish the name of the party, the amount of the donation, the name of the donor, the date of the donation, and the date the recipient reported the donation. Donations of €10,000 or more must be included in the party’s annual accountability report to the President of the Bundestag.
State prosecutors are generally responsible for investigating corruption cases, but not all state governments have prosecutors specializing in corruption. Germany has successfully prosecuted hundreds of domestic corruption cases over the years, including large– scale cases against major companies.
Media reports in past years about bribery investigations against Siemens, Daimler, Deutsche Telekom, Deutsche Bank, and Ferrostaal have increased awareness of the problem of corruption. As a result, listed companies and multinationals have expanded compliance departments, tightened internal codes of conduct, and offered more training to employees.
Germany was a signatory to the UN Anti-Corruption Convention in 2003. The Bundestag ratified the Convention in November 2014.
Germany adheres to and actively enforces the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which criminalizes bribery of foreign public officials by German citizens and firms. The necessary tax reform legislation ending the tax write-off for bribes in Germany and abroad became law in 1999.
Germany participates in the relevant EU anti-corruption measures and signed two EU conventions against corruption. However, while Germany ratified the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in 2017, it has not yet ratified the Civil Law Convention on Corruption.
There is no central government anti-corruption agency in Germany. Federal states are responsible for fighting corruption.
Due to Germany’s federal state structure, original responsibility in the area of anti-corruption lies with the individual federal states. Further information, in particular contact persons for corruption prevention, can be found on the websites of state level law enforcement (police) or the ombudsmen of the cities, districts and municipalities.
These offices, special telephone numbers or web-based contact options also offer whistleblowers or interested citizens the opportunity to contact them anonymously in individual federal states.
(The Federal Ministry of the Interior’s website provides further information on corruption prevention regulations and integrity regulations at the federal level.)
Claimants can contact “watchdog” organizations such as Transparency International for more information:
Hartmut Bäumer, Chair
Transparency International Germany
Alte Schönhauser Str. 44, 10119 Berlin
+49 30 549 898 0
The Federal Criminal Office publishes an annual report on corruption: “Bundeslagebild Korruption” – the latest one covers 2020.