EU export controls are being revamped to ensure European goods and technologies, such as cyber-surveillance tools, cannot be used for human rights violations.
The EU has rules to ensure that goods and technologies produced for civilian use in Europe cannot be abused for other ends when being exported. These are also known as dual-use items as they can be used for both civilian and military applications, for example to develop weapons of mass destruction or commit terrorist acts.
These rules are currently being updated to take into account new technological developments. MEPs will debate the plans on Tuesday 16 January and vote on them the following day. One of the main changes is to prevent the abuse of cyber-surveillance technologies, which authoritarian regimes could use to spy on their own people, be it to hack computers or to intercept mobile phones. Parliament’s trade committee proposes to add clear-cut criteria and definitions to the regulation to strengthen the right to privacy, data and freedom of assembly. The committee also made other proposals such as introducing similar penalties for non-compliance across the EU.
What dual-use items are
Dual-use items are goods, software or technology that can be used to develop weapons of mass destruction or that be used in a military way in addition to their original purpose. Examples include nuclear reactors, cryogenic refrigeration units, explosives, surveillance systems and equipment, and chemicals that can be used as precursors for toxic chemical agents.
How the export controls work
The EU regulation sets out basic principles and common rules for the control of the export, brokering, transit and transfer of dual-use items. In addition to a common EU list of dual-use items, there is also coordination and cooperation between EU countries to implement and enforce the rules.