Parliament revised EU rules on exports of products that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, such as chemicals, telecoms devices or software, in a vote on Tuesday. In negotiations with the Council, MEPs won an undertaking that that no general export authorisation should be given to "dual-use" technologies that can potentially be used in ways that violate human rights.
In the legislative resolution by Jörg Leichtfried (S&D, AT), adopted with 567 votes in favour, 89 against, and 12 abstentions, MEPs prohibit the granting of general EU authorisations for exports to certain countries (such as China, India, Russia and Turkey) of telecommunication technologies that can be used "in connection with a violation of human rights, democratic principles or freedom of speech (...) by using interception technologies and digital data transfer devices for monitoring mobile phones and text messages and targeted surveillance of internet use".
To date, exports of these products have not been subject to any EU authorisation system, and it has been up to individual Member States to decide on unilateral export controls.
"This is a good step towards strengthened control over dual-use products exported from the EU", Mr Leichtfried said after the vote, adding that "a bigger step could have been taken if we had established a system of pre-export notifications, but unfortunately there was no majority in the house for such an amendment".
Parliament also prohibited dual-use exports to countries under arms embargoes imposed by the EU Council, the OSCE or the UN.
To strengthen parliamentary scrutiny over export authorisation procedures, MEPs insisted that each year the Commission should present an annual report to Parliament on dual-use exports.
Exports of dual-use items are restricted by a system of international, EU and national rules, which require EU firms to seek authorisation from the authorities. These rules aim to limit the risk of sensitive dual-use items being used for military purposes.
The new EU regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items will establish a comprehensive system of "Union General Export Authorisations" (UGEAs). The rules define which products can be exported to which countries, as listed in the specific annexes to the regulation. The exports of products to countries not included in these annexes are governed by other EU and national rules.
For most dual-use items, exports to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein will require a UGEA issued by the European Union. For all other items and countries, authorisation needs to be requested from national authorities, according to their respective national rules.
The list of dual-use items requiring export authorisation was last updated by Parliament on 13 September 2011, when it passed a resolution by Vital Moreira (S&D, PT).
Procedure: Co-decision (1st reading)
Debate: 04.04.2011 (link below)