On September 28, the European Commission announced that it would begin to strengthen the jurisdiction on the exports of goods and technologies that “may also be misused for severe human rights violations, terrorist acts or the development of weapons of mass destruction” (1). The proposal focuses on exports of cyber-surveillance technologies, such as monitoring centers and data retention systems, which are meant for legitimate civilian applications. On the day of the press release, Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom stated, “We are living in turbulent times. Preserving peace and protecting human rights are core objective of the EU and our trade policy is essential to that aim. That’s why we are proposing a set of modern rules to make sure that exports are not misused to threaten international security or undermine human rights” (2). An additional benefit of the proposal is that it would simplify already existing export control laws and save the European Union both time and money. More importantly, this motion will assure the world of the EU’s commitment to international peace and security.
In 2014, the European Parliament reached a political understanding that “recognized the importance of continuously enhancing the effectiveness and coherence of the EU’s strategic export controls regime” (3). The aim of this understanding was to keep up with newly arising threats that may result from rapid technological changes in the modern system. Just last year, leaked invoices and emails exposed that a Milan-based software company, Hacking Team, had sold spyware to a number of governments, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Sudan. Although the Italian government instantly rescinded the company’s license to export internationally, it is events such as this that the EU is trying to avoid. Although the EU attempts to oversee as many major trades and exports as possible, some countries are known for approving export requests more leniently. Under the new rules, members of the EU will be forced to disclose information about the exports they approve to EU leaders and regulators.
While attempting to maintain a high level of security and provide transparency, the European Commission does not want to impair international trade nor the competitiveness of European companies. A lengthy approval process for items such as location tracking devices and biometrics equipment could make it difficult for technology companies to capture new markets and quickly increase their profit margins (4). The EU must be careful not to cast a broad net that unintentionally makes suspects out of harmless items and overwhelms licensing authorities. After all, the European economy could benefit greatly from being a major player in the ever-growing technology sector, which is moving at an astounding pace.
The international spike in terrorism is the driving force behind the EU’s efforts to make export controls more efficient, consistent, and effective. The depressing rise of acts of terrorism around the world has forced authorities and governments to tighten controls on potential weapons of mass destruction. By harmonizing the controls on brokering and transit of technological surveillance items, European authorities will be able to monitor the potential risks more closely than ever before. The EU hopes to do their part in the fight against terrorism by introducing precise provisions preventing the exploitation of dual-use items in relation to terrorists’ global threat.
(1) "Commission Proposes to Modernise and Strengthen Controls on Exports of Dual-use Items." European Commission. European Commission, 28 Sept. 2016. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.
(4) Stupp, Catherine. "Commission Plans Export Controls for Surveillance Technology." EurActiv.com. EurActiv Network, 21 July 2016. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.
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Carlos was born in Chicago, Illinois and came to USC to study psychology with a minor in Business Administration. He has worked in healthcare and finance for the past two summers. Carlos also helped co-found Trojan Marketing Group, a group that develops marketing strategies for large companies. Carlos has been with Global Intelligence Trust since summer of 2016. He am most interested in writing about innovation in the technology sector and aerospace developments. Apart from academics, Carlos enjoys playing volleyball, hiking, and traveling.