Germany plans to block EU plans to stop spyware trade with dictators

European online media platform has reported that EU proposals to establish export restrictions on spyware are being held back by Germany.

A recent proposal from EU member states backing the European Commission plans “doesn’t have anything in it that would change the situation on the controls for cyber surveillance goods,” said an EU official close to the matter who spoke to EURACTIV under conditions of anonymity.

This may be, the source said, due to Germany’s commercial interest in exporting such goods. Although Berlin isn’t explicitly part of a blocking majority of member states in the Council, behind closed doors they stand in direct opposition to the plans.

“Germany is merely pretending to support the restrictions in public,” the source said. “But in reality, they have no interest in adopting these measures.”

The regulation on dual-use items aims to clamp down on exports that can be used in the surveillance of citizens in countries with less than democratic regimes.

The Commission’s 2016 proposal for a reform in this area were rubber stamped by the European Parliament in January 2018, but have since then suffered setbacks in the Council of Ministers, where EU member states are represented.

The original proposal came after the 2011 Arab Spring, where European technology was allegedly being used by authoritarian regimes to oppress activists. As part of the plans backed by Parliament, exporters of cyber surveillance items would have to make sure that their goods “will not fall into the wrong hands.”

However, recent attempts to hamper the proposal, reportedly on commercial grounds, have provoked dismay from the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the file, German Green MEP Klaus Buchner. He told EURACTIV about his frustration that the restrictions are being heavily influenced by business interests.

“I am deeply disappointed that the German and French government have surrendered to their domestic cyber surveillance industries and have practically stopped any progress on the Dual Use file,” he said.

“We are continuing to sell European spyware to dictators.”