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Dual-use export controls

The trade in dual-use items – goods, software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications and/or can contribute to the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) – is subject to controls to prevent the risks that these items may pose for international security. The controls derive from international obligations (in particular UN Security Council Resolution 1540, the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention) and are in line with commitments agreed upon in multilateral export control regimes.

The EU therefore controls the export, transit and brokering of dual-use items as a key instrument contributing to international peace and security.

Dual-use controls in a nutshell

The EU export control regime is governed by Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 , which provides for common EU control rules, a common EU list of dual-use items as well as coordination and cooperation to support consistent implementation and enforcement throughout the EU.

The Regulation is binding and directly applicable throughout the EU. EU Member States nevertheless need to take certain complementary measures for implementing some of its provisions, e.g. in relation to enforcement and applicable penalties. An overview of national measures  is published at regular intervals.

More on the export control regime and export authorizations

Dual use trade and the EU economy

Dual-use export controls affect research and development (R&D), production and trade of typically high-tech, advanced products across a wide-range of industries – e.g. energy, aerospace, defence and security, telecommunications and information security, life sciences, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, material-processing equipment, electronics, semiconductor and computing industries, lasers and navigation. Dual-use industries bring together thousands of small, medium and large companies providing high value-added jobs across key sectors of the EU economy. Dual use items represent a significant portion of EU trade with key partners and are crucial to the EU's drive towards innovation and competitiveness.

Prospects for an evolution of the EU export control regime

Export controls, as a security-related trade instrument, remain, more than ever, at the forefront of international non-proliferation efforts, and need to adjust to the evolution of security risks and threats – including the various forms of terrorism and the efforts by some states and non-state actors to acquire weapons of mass destruction and corresponding carrier technology and armaments. Export controls also need to adjust to rapid technological and scientific developments and transformations in global economic relations.

The European Commission therefore regularly holds public consultations, and maintains a constant dialogue with industry associations, academia and civil society, in order to discuss ways to strike the right balance between security and competitiveness. Moreover, EU Member States also engage in outreach to and dialogue with business associations and stakeholders at national level.

In October 2013, a Commission report on the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 initiated a wide-ranging "export control policy review", which assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the EU export control system, its impact on both security and trade and stakeholders' views concerning possible improvements and evolutions towards a more integrated EU export control regime. That report opened the way for the adoption, in April 2014, of Communication (2014)244 , which outlines a long-term vision for EU strategic export controls and identifies concrete policy options for the modernisation of the export control system.

In 2015, the Commission conducted an impact assessment in order to assess the costs and benefits associated with the various review options outlined in the Communication, notably as regards potential regulatory simplification and burden reduction. The impact assessment allowed the Commission to identify the most suitable regulatory and non-regulatory actions and to prepare a proposal for amendments to Regulation (EC) No 428/2009. In light of the conclusions of the impact assesment report  the Commission adopted on 28 September 2016 a proposal for a modernisation of the EU export control system. The Commission proposal will be discussed in the Council and the European Parliament in the course of 2017, as part of the legislative process.

More on Dual-use export controls

EU Export control system and related EU links
International organisations in charge of disarmament and non-proliferation
Key documents