Today, the European Commission proposes to strengthen controls on exports of certain goods and technologies that – in addition to legitimate civilian applications – may also be misused for severe human rights violations, terrorist acts or the development of weapons of mass destruction. A main element of today's proposal is a new "human security" dimension in export controls, to prevent human rights violations associated with certain cyber-surveillance technologies. Furthermore, the proposal simplifies and harmonises the existing export control rules, in order to save time and money for EU exporters and national authorities. These export controls reflect the EU's commitment to international peace and security.
"We are living in turbulent times. Preserving peace and protecting human rights are core objectives of the EU and our trade policy is essential to that aim. That's why we are proposing a set of modern rules to make sure that exports are not misused to threaten international security or undermine human rights", said Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström.
The purpose of the proposal is to strike a balance between ensuring a high level of security and adequate transparency, and maintaining the competitiveness of European companies and legitimate trade in dual-use items. With the emergence of, for instance, specifically designed surveillance technology such as monitoring centres and data retention systems, it is essential to ensure that regulations allow EU authorities to stop exports in cases where they could be misused for human rights violations, for repression or armed conflict.
Specifically, the Commission proposes to make these export controls:
- more efficient – simplifying the administration of controls by optimising licensing processes, introducing EU General Export Authorisations, and simplifying the controls on technology transfers, while ensuring a high level of security and adequate transparency to prevent illicit use of the exported items;
- more consistent – avoid divergent levels of controls throughout the EU by e.g. harmonising the controls on brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items;
- more effective – by introducing specific provisions preventing the misuse of dual-use items in relation to terrorism.
The initiative builds on a political understanding reached in 2014 by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission that "recognised the importance of continuously enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of the EU’s strategic export controls regime" and "considered that modernisation of the system is needed in order to keep up with new threats and rapid technological changes".
The EU is a major producer and exporter of dual-use items and a significant actor in the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass distruction. The EU export control regime emerged in the late 1990s and was gradually strengthened over the last decade, in particular in response to the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of December 2003. The existing Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 implements the EU's international commitments, enables the free circulation of dual-use items – with some exceptions – inside the EU. A common EU list of controlled dual-use items is included in an annex to the Regulation, and contains goods and technologies such as nuclear reactors, cryogenic refrigeration units, explosives, surveillance systems and equipment, and chemicals that can be used as precursors for toxic chemical agents. The regulation lays down basic principles and common rules for the control of the export, brokering, transit and transfer of dual-use items. These rules now need to be upgraded.
The Commission's proposal will now be decided upon by the Council and the European Parliament in an ordinary legislative procedure.