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EU looks to tighten controls on exports of dual-use items

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(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission set out a proposal Wednesday to strengthen controls on exports of goods and technologies that could be misused for terrorist acts or the development of weapons of mass destruction.

The main element of the proposal is a new "human security" dimension in export controls, designed to prevent human rights violations associated with certain cyber-surveillance technologies.

The proposal also simplifies and harmonises existing export control rules, which should result in saving time and money for EU exporters as well as national authorities.

"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 the EU's Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.

The Commission says 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, the Commission sees it as 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.

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 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 strengthened 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.

Further information

Text of the Commission's proposal

EU export control regime

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