Brussels - EU lawmakers overwhelmingly backed plans on Thursday to control exports of devices to intercept mobile phone calls, hack computers or circumvent passwords that could be used by foreign states to suppress political opponents or activists. Members of the European Parliament’s trade committee voted by 34 votes to one in favour of a planned update to export controls on “dual use” products or technologies. The EU has had export controls since 2009 on such dual use products including toxins, laser and technology for navigation or nuclear power, which can have a civilian or military applications but also be used to make weapons of mass destruction. The EU has felt that spyware or malware and telecom of Internet surveillance technologies are increasingly threatening security and human rights and proposed a modernisation of its export control system to cover cyber-surveillance.
The move is part of the EU’s strategy to take advantage of the trade vacuum left by more protectionist U.S. President Donald Trump both in terms of striking trade accords with other countries and setting values for global trade. EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom has been seeking to rally dozens of countries to stop the trade in torture equipment and lethal-injection drugs, which could make it harder for the United States to perform executions. The planned new legislation on dual-use products will go for a vote in a full session of parliament in December or January and then be discussed with EU countries in the coming months.