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Don’t overburden export control with bureaucracy!


17 Jan 2018


Trade & Society

VDMA: Politics must not pass the responsibility for counterterrorism and protection of human rights to companies


Brussels/Frankfurt, 17 January 2018 - The mechanical engineering industry vehemently oppose the proposals to reform EU export controls on dual-use goods, which are the subject of a European Parliament vote on 17 January. VDMA believes that nearly all of the proposals are unacceptable from a professional perspective.

“This is an excessive accumulation of changes that make export controls no better, just more bureaucratic,” says Klaus Friedrich, an expert in export controls at VDMA’s Foreign Trade Department. In addition, the newly proposed control targets of combating terrorism and protecting human rights will place too much of a burden on export controls as a tool. “Businesses are not counterterrorism officials,” says Friedrich. The European Parliament agrees with this viewpoint at least in part. The Committee on International Trade has expressed opposition to “catch-all” controls making the fight against terrorism a goal of the control process.

However, the European Parliament does support the introduction of catch-all controls to protect human rights in the area of monitoring technology. “That will be too much of a burden for companies,” says Friedrich. Catch-all controls are difficult to apply in any case, and to work, they need a technological target, such as arms or military technology. They will not work for the purpose of political, purely subjective control targets

“The responsibility of the State for protecting human rights cannot be simply pushed onto companies,” says Friedrich critically. For traditional export controls, there are pre-requirements set down by the State: arms and military technology are defined in technical terms, and the target countries considered critical in this regard are also predeterminded. All of this is missing with the proposed catch-all controls on human rights. “The policy-makers must state which countries are making unacceptable use of monitoring technology from a human rights perspective,” Friedrich insists. The State must take responsibility in this regard, and that aspect is something the European Parliament completely ignores.

Following the vote in the Parliament, it is now up to the EU member countries to take a critical position on the new draft of the Dual Use Regulation in the Council of the EU. Germany initiated European export controls in 1995, and since then it has been the country most affected by export controls, by far. “For that reason, it will mainly be companies and administration in Germany that will carry the can for the changes proposed by the European Commission, some of which are frankly absurd,” Friedrich warns.


VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau, Mechanical Engineering Industry Association) represents more than 3,200 mostly medium-sized companies in the capital goods industry, making it the largest industry association in Europe. With more than 1 million employees in Germany and a turnover of 219 bn. Euro (2016), the mechanical engineering industry is the largest industrial employer in Germany and one of the leading industries overall.