On 28 September 2016, the European Commission issued a press release announcing that the 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.

According to the release, a main element of the 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.

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.