11 countries back plan to restrict exports of surveillance technologies

EU countries agree to restrict exports of surveillance technologies

11 EU countries have expressed support for a draft proposal to restrict exports of surveillance technologies according to a leaked negotiation document obtained by Euractiv.

The leaked document was prepared on behalf of Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, and presents considerations on plans to restrict exports of surveillance technologies.

In the document, the named countries call for a recast of an EU regulation which enforces international export control regimes, and which has been vital to European efforts to encourage non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

How would the regulation be amended?

In the report, the 11 countries argue in favour of a proposed amendment to the export control regulations. The proposed amendment would expand the regulation to integrate effective cyber-surveillance controls alongside current international export control regimes.

In this way, the amendments would take into account technologies which could damage human rights, such as spyware and other surveillance technologies. The European Commission initially made the proposal when it emerged that EU companies had sold software to governments that was used to spy on Arab Spring protesters.

In particular, new amendments to the regulation would restrict exports of surveillance technologies that are considered “dual use”. This refers to technologies which have both civilian and military purposes, and are therefore subject to additional trade restrictions.

What will happen with the proposed amendment now?

There has been resistance from some member states to the proposed amendment, and the leaked document warns that additional work is needed. In particular, it insists that consultation with experts is needed to ensure that the European Commission avoids unintended consequences for the legitimate cyber-security industry in Europe.

The European Parliament has already approved the amendment, which now needs approval from the European Commission and the EU member states. Despite objections from some member states, the support of the 11 listed in the document suggests that the amendment will make good progress to restrict exports of surveillance technologies.

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