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 Full text 
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Control of exports, transfer, brokering, technical assistance and transit of dual-use items (debate)

  Marietje Schaake, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. – Mr President, the billion-euro commercial market in ready-made surveillance systems remains largely unregulated, and that is astonishing in light of the capabilities that companies in surveillance, hacking and exfiltration technologies are further and further developing. While many politicians claim to be concerned with cyber security, anyone who can afford it can buy systems that collect massive amounts of data, can break into people’s devices without the consent of the user, and information can be removed unnoticed. This is unacceptable and regulation lags behind.

The digital surveillance market should worry us in Europe, but the consequences of exports to dictatorships where the rule of law is absent is even more grave and unacceptable. The Arab uprisings seven years ago were often associated with the use of technology to advance human rights, but it has become crystal clear how repressive regimes have mastered technologies for their own goals and control, and this is not limited to the Middle East. Human rights defenders, journalists, critical citizens, dissidents and representatives of civil society are targets worldwide.

It has taken a long time for there to be EU action but I’m very glad that we found broad consensus to update the dual-use regulation that will tackle this toxic trade with targeted measures on the basis of human security. Surveillance systems will require a licence before export, human rights will become a clear criterion to assess before a licence is granted, and definitions will be clear, so the private sector will not suffer or be hindered unnecessarily, and we in turn count on their cooperation.

Similarly, we seek a predictable level playing field in Europe. We need to end the notion of so-called ‘licence shopping’ where a company maybe rejected a licence in, for example, the Netherlands, but can be granted one in, for example, Italy. At the same time – and I am glad the Commissioner mentioned it – security researchers should be able to do their job, which sometimes requires coordinated attacks on systems precisely to make them more resilient and robust. An encryption which actually helps people to protect data doesn’t belong on a controls list. We call for the lifting of export controls on that.

I look forward to a swift trilogue that can start under the Bulgarian Presidency without delay. It is good to see such a coming-together of minds between our three institutions which can have a real impact in the real world.

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