S&Ds call on member states to stop putting EU made cyber surveillance tools in the hands of dictators

Cyber surveillance tools software and computer screens

The Socialists and Democrats will today back proposals to tighten the control system for the export of dual-use items, goods and technologies that can be used for both military and civilian purposes, in a vote in the European Parliament. For years, the Socialists and Democrats have been pushing to include information and communication technology, notably surveillance software, in a strict export control regime. The proposal includes strong human rights criteria; an EU control list of dual-use goods not yet falling under multilateral control regimes; guidelines for authorities on licensing and for companies on due diligence; comprehensive reporting requirements for member states’ licensing authorities to increase transparency, thereby considerably broadening the Commission’s initial proposal. The push for stricter export controls comes as part of a broader S&D campaign for a progressive trade policy which wants the EU to lead the race to the top on standards and values. The S&D Group is seeking to immediately start negotiations with member states to ensure the adoption of the new rules before the end of this legislature.

Bernd Lange, S&D negotiator on the control of export of dual-use goods and chair of the European Parliament’s trade committee, said:

“During the Arab Spring, autocratic regimes misused EU made cyber tools and software to crack down on journalists and human rights advocates. Some were even imprisoned and subjected to torture. By including information and communication technology in a strict export control regime for dual-use goods, we want to prevent cases like these from happening again. Putting the human rights dimension at the heart of our export control rules will make them far more ambitious than other comparable international regimes. We call on member states to follow our lead and stop putting EU made cyber surveillance tools in the hands of dictators.”

S&D spokesperson on trade, Alessia Mosca, MEP, added:

“We are proud that the Socialists and Democrats have been the frontrunners pushing for strict export control rules on technologies that can be used by authoritarian regimes to spy on their citizens. We fought for more transparency, clear provisions on due diligence, anti-circumvention and a level playing field among EU countries. The new rules will impose tougher export controls and oblige companies and member states to disclose which countries are buying cyber surveillance tools. We are serious about human rights and the EU taking a leadership role in the fight for democracy and human rights, and we will soon learn if member states are too.”

Note to the editor:

‘Dual-use’ refers to a wide range of goods, including chemicals, toxins, lasers, sensors, electronics and computers. The original intent of the EU’s regulation on dual-use was to target items that could be used for nuclear proliferation. Until today, cyber surveillance technology has not been covered by the regulation. The Socialists and Democrats have campaigned to include information and communication technology in the new rules after cases emerged where authoritarian regimes used cyber technology to spy on their citizens, e.g. track their mobile phones or internet usage.

The vote in the plenary of the European Parliament will be followed by negotiations with member states, who still need to agree their position. A strong mandate will strengthen the Parliament’s negotiation team against some member states who are pushing for weak rules to protect their industries export interests.