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Export Controls

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 May 2019

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Questions (82)

Clare Daly


82. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the reason Ireland put its name to a working paper opposing the strengthening of dual-use export controls on cybersurveillance software from the EU (details supplied) in view of the fact that the proposals were aimed at preventing human rights abuses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20565/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The EU operates an export control regime designed to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to support regional stability and to protect human rights. The principal EU legal instrument underpinning these controls is Council Regulation 4028/2009 setting up a Union regime for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of Dual-use items. My Department is the national competent authority with responsibility for implementing this Regulation. Dual-use items are goods and technology that have both civil and military applications.

In September 2016 the European Commission published its proposal to recast (i.e. update and modernise) the Dual-Use Regulation of 2009. The Commission proposed extensive changes to the Dual-use Regulation in order to enhance EU controls in support of global non-proliferation efforts. These changes reflect advances in technology, new business practices and operational experience over the past decade.

The complexity of the Commission’s proposal is illustrated by the 98 amendments put forward by the European Parliament in January 2018.

The Commission's proposal is currently the subject of a detailed, line-by-line examination by Member States’ technical experts in the Council's Working Party on Dual-use Goods. The experts are working to enhance the Commission’s proposal and to address the issues raised by the European Parliament in its 98 amendments. This close scrutiny by the Working Party experts is a key step in the EU’s legislative process to ensure that new legislation is robust, proportionate and workable. My officials are contributing actively and constructively to this process.

My officials are strongly supportive of the recast of the Regulation and welcome many elements of the Commission’s proposal.

My officials, and those from several other Member States, have concerns about certain provisions in the Commission’s proposal related to cybersurveillance technologies. While they fully support efforts to ensure that cybersurveillance technologies are not used to commit human rights violations, they have serious concerns about the effectiveness, proportionality, and unintended consequences of these provisions.

My officials, in conjunction with their colleagues from a number of Member States, have put forward concrete alternative ideas for strengthening EU controls in this area. Principal among them is the suggestion that the EU should develop smarter and more effective sanctions specifically for countering violations of human rights around the world.

Accordingly, Ireland is not opposed to strengthening EU export controls on cybersurveillance software. Ireland is strongly committed to the protection of human rights; it is a cornerstone of our Foreign Policy. Ireland has long been at the forefront of global efforts to promote Human Rights. Ireland is strongly committed to the universality, indivisibility and inter-relatedness of all Human Rights, as set out in the corpus of UN and EU treaties, covenants and protocols. Ireland is actively working with the UN, NGOs and through its overseas development programme, Irish Aid, to promote and protect human rights.

The EU currently has significant controls in place in respect of cybersurveillance technologies and human rights. A broad range of cybersurveillance technologies fall within the scope of the current Dual-use Regulation, including Internet Protocol (IP) network communications surveillance systems or equipment; Telecommunications interception and monitoring equipment; and Intrusion Software. Consequently, a licence is required to export these items outside of the EU.

All applications for export licences are subject to rigorous scrutiny by my officials on a case-by-case basis. Each application is reviewed against the eight risk assessment criteria set out in Article 2 of the European Council Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment. Criterion 2 specially addresses respect for human rights in the country of final destination.

My officials also seek observations from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on any foreign policy concerns, including human rights considerations.

Applications are also reviewed against any EU sanctions that may be in place in respect of the destination country. The EU implements over thirty sanctions regimes targeting specific countries and entities as part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. A key objective of EU sanctions regimes is to support democracy and human rights around the world. EU restrictive measures regimes can, and do, include provisions to prevent exports of cybersurveillance items that could be used to commit human rights violations.