Dual-use trade: review of the EU export control system

Dual use goods are products and technologies normally used for civilian purposes but which may have military applications.

More generally speaking, dual-use can also refer to any technology which can satisfy more than one goal at any given time. Thus, expensive technologies which would otherwise only benefit civilian commercial interests can also be used to serve military purposes when not otherwise engaged such as the Global Positioning System.

The EU is controlling the export, transit and brokering of dual-use items with the purpose to contribute to international peace and security. These controlling mechanisms reflect commitments agreed upon in key multilateral export control regimes such as the Australia Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The EU export control system: defined by Regulation (EC) No 428/2009

The EU’s export controle regime of dual use goods is governed by Regulation (EC) No 428/2009. This includes:

  • common export control rules, including a common set of assessment criteria and common types of authorisations (individual, global and general authorisations)
  • a common EU list of dual-use items
  • a ‘catch-all clause’ for non-listed items which could be used, e.g. in connection with a WMD programme
  • controls on brokering dual-use items and their transit through the EU
  • specific control measures to be introduced by exporters, such as record-keeping and registers
  • provisions setting up a network of  competent authorities supporting the exchange of information and the consistent implementation and enforcement of controls throughout the EU.

In specific cases, additional or specific measures – put by EU countries – may apply to dual-use exports. In any case, EU member states need to take extra measures for implementing enforcement and penalties.

Dual-use items may be traded freely within the EU, except for some particularly sensitive items, which transfer within the EU remains subject to prior authorisation. The regulation contributes to goals of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) with regard to trade in nuclear material and to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Dual-use export authorisations

The EU export controle regime defines four types of export authorisations:

  • EU General Export Authorisations (EUGEAs), allowing exports of dual-use items to certain destinations under certain conditions. There are currently six EU GEAs in place:
  • exports to Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the United States of America
  • export of certain dual-use items to certain destinations
  • export after repair/replacement
  • temporary export for exhibition or fair
  • telecommunications
  • chemicals
  • National General Export Authorisations (NGEAs), being issued by EU countries if they are consistent with existing EUGEAs and do not refer to items listed in Annex IIg of the Regulation.
  • Global licences, which can be granted by competent authorities to one exporter. They can cover multiple items to multiple countries of destination or end users.
  • Individual licenses, which can be granted by national authorities to one exporter and cover exports of one or more dual-use items to one end-user or consignee in a third country.

Review of the EU export control regime

Export controls need to be regularly updated to adjust to evolving security risks and threats, rapid developments in science and technology, and changes in world trade.

  • The Commission presented a report to the European Parliament and the Council in October 2013 on the regulation’s implementation and concluded that the EU should upgrade its export control system to face new challenges.
  • The Commission’s 2014 communication set out options to review the EU’s export controls, which were subject to an impact assessment in 2015.
  • The Commission adopted a proposal to modernise the EU export control system in September 2016. The Council and the European Parliament will discuss the Commission’s proposal during 2018.
  • The Commission regularly holds public consultations, and has a constant dialogue with industry, academia and civil society, in an effort to strike the right balance between security and trade.



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