The blurring of civilian and defence industrial bases and the increase in items with uncertain dual-use features make distinguishing between civilian and military products and platforms more difficult, and complicate the issues of exports and technology transfers. Dual-use trade has grown steadily over the years, with EU controlled dual-use exports estimated at approximately 2.5% of total EU exports.
The European Commission (EC) is currently reviewing the EU export controls system, making this discussion paper, which gathers the perspectives of experts on possible ways forward regarding dual-use technologies, a timely contribution to the debate.
After issuing a green paper in 2011 that launched a public debate on the EU’s export control system, the EC published in January 2013 a Staff Working Document identifying the main issues raised by over 100 stakeholders. An EC report to the European Parliament and Council on the implementation of the regulation was adopted on 16 October 2013, marking a second step in the review process. The EC Communication of April 2014 aimed at mapping the direction for EU export controls, and identified concrete modernisation policy options for their adaptation to rapidly changing technological, economic and political circumstances.
This paper is not only about dual-use export legislation; it aims to pinpoint concrete ways of making dual-use technologies a major asset to Europe’s economy, fostering growth, employment, innovation and competitiveness. Smarter thinking about dual-use technologies can also provide an answer for the challenges the European research sector is now facing.
As the December 2013 Council reiterated, interaction between the civilian and defence sectors must be reinforced, not least to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to gain access to €325 billion worth of EU structural funds for dual-use R&D over the 2014-2020 period.
A positive side-effect to the decreasing investment in defence R&D may be a new impulse for innovation in dual-use technologies, benefiting both the civilian and defence sectors.
This paper takes place in close collaboration between Friends of Europe and the Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the European Union. China is a major economic power and a strategic partner of the EU with growing trade flows and cooperation across key sectors. A better understanding of Europe’s vision for dual-use technologies and the possible consequences for the global market fits into China’s increasingly open engagements with its partners.
Should we think of dual-use technologies as a Pandora’s Box, or a panacea for the EU’s economy? The question remains to be answered, and it is hoped the following contributions will provide meaningful leads on where to go on dual-use technologies.