PI Research Officer Edin Omanovic said:
“The European Commission has proposed sweeping updates [PDF] to trade regulations in an effort to modernise the EU’s export control system and to ensure that the trade in surveillance technology does not facilitate human rights abuses or internal repression.
Privacy International welcomes the intentions of the proposed changes in terms of protecting human rights as it does all such moves. More than half of the world’s surveillance companies identified by Privacy International are based in the EU. Since 1979, when it was revealed that a UK company had provided the necessary wiretapping technology to the genocidal regime of Idi Amin in Uganda, there have been calls for safeguards over the trade in surveillance technology. Recently, Privacy International has reported the export of various surveillance technology used in human rights abuses in Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt, Colombia, Morocco, Central Asia, Bangladesh,Macedonia, and Pakistan.
A previous version of the proposals was obtained and published last month by Euractiv. Privacy International at the time published an analysis of the leaked proposals as they related to surveillance technology, below. Since then, industry and national governments have been lobbying the Commission, which is in charge of formulating policy in the EU, to make changes. The eventual proposals only differ slightly however, with the main change being that the definition of “cyber-surveillance” technology has been narrowed. The actual annex which contains a detailed list of what technology has been subject to control has also been published. In addition to spyware used to infect devices, mobile phone interception tech, and mass internet monitoring centres, the Commission has proposed to add unilateral EU categories. Currently these are listed as telecommunications monitoring centres and lawful interception retention systems.
The proposals encapsulate the best and worst aspects of the European Union. Their stated intent reflects Europe’s commitment to fundamental rights, and — as a regulation — it will be binding on all member states, massively magnifying the effect of any legislation. However, they come five years after initial calls for reform made during the Arab Uprising, when it was revealed that the spying apparatuses of numerous authoritarian states largely relied on European surveillance technology. The policy making process has been marked by technical and bureaucratic complexities detached from individuals, making it vulnerable to the interests of industry, powerful national governments, and civil society.
Privacy International will be working to analyse the full implications of the proposal and to ensure that effective safeguards are eventually implemented, and encourages everyone to do so.”
BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 14, 2016 –The European Parliament approved an agreement granting duty-free access to the EU for products from Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho, and improved market access for South Africa on Wednesday.
“This agreement will help our African partner states to reduce poverty and can also facilitate their smooth and gradual integration into the world economy. There are also many safeguards in the deal to ensure that local people truly benefit from this cooperation. The language on human rights and sustainable development is one of the strongest that you will find in any EU agreement”, said rapporteur Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE, DE), before the vote.
MEPs approved the deal by 417 votes to 216, with 66 abstentions.
Free access to EU markets
The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with six member states of the South African Development Community (SADC) establishes a “positive discrimination”, ensuring immediate duty- and quota-free access for their exports to the EU market. It also creates new regional opportunities through more flexible use of rules of origin.
The African countries will liberalise 86% of their trade with the EU (Mozambique 74%) over ten years with the exception of agricultural and fishery products. The deal replaces the previous interim agreements based on unilateral trade preferences and complies with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
While the agreement covers only trade and development cooperation, it leaves the door open for services, investment, intellectual property and public procurement. To mitigate potential negative impacts on the SADC countries, several safeguards were added to the deal. The EU undertook not to subsidize its agricultural exports to these countries.
The deal also lists trade-related areas that could benefit from EU development cooperation funding, but none is pledged at this stage.
In a July resolution, international trade MEPs advocated strengthening the monitoring of the agreement to ensure that “its benefits for the people are maximized”. The committee also tabled an oral question to the Commission for this plenary on parliamentary oversight and civil society monitoring.
Next steps: The deal will enter into force once the Council formally approves it and the national parliaments of the six African states ratify the text.
Note to the editors: in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement of 2000, African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU agreed to negotiate reciprocal, though asymmetric, trade agreements to comply with WTO rules and to support these countries’ development and integration into the world economy.
Negotiations were to be concluded by the end of 2007, but the process took longer and the EU finished negotiations with six states of the SADC Group in July 2014. Angola finally decided not to enter into the agreement, but may join in the future.
Negotiations with six SADC states ended in 2014. The other eight (Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) belong to other regional EPA groupings.