EU Export Controls

EU Export Controls


It was established by the European Court of Justice that the rules that restrict the export of dual-use to third countries fall under the scope of the common commercial policy as stated in the Article 133 of the EC treaty. The regulations were established in 2009 and govern the control of exports, transfers, brokering and transit of dual-use items.


Dual-use trade controls


Dual-use items are goods, software and technology that can be used for both civilian and military applications. The EU controls the export, transit and brokering of dual-use items so the EU can contribute to international peace and security and prevent the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

  • UN Security Council Resolution 1540
  • The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • the Chemical Weapons Convention
  • the Biological Weapons Convention

EU export controls 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.

They contribute to the EU's Security Strategy  and the EU Strategy against the Proliferation of WMDs .

The EU export control system

Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 (2017 consolidated version) governs the EU's export control regime, which 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 certain cases, EU countries may put extra controls on non-listed dual-use items because of public security or human rights considerations.

In specific cases, additional EU restrictive measures may apply to dual-use exports

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 (see Annex IV of the Regulation). 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.

The regulation is directly applicable throughout the EU. EU countries nevertheless need to take extra measures for implementing some of its provisions, e.g. enforcement and penalties.

Dual-use export authorisations

There are four types of export authorisations in place in the EU export control regime:

EU General Export Authorisations (EUGEAs)

EU General Export Authorisations (EUGEAs) allow exports of dual-use items to certain destinations under certain conditions (see Annex II of the Regulation). 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)

National General Export Authorisations (NGEAs) may be 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

Global licences can be granted by competent authorities to one exporter and may cover multiple items to multiple countries of destination or end users.

Individual licenses

Individual licenses 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.

More on Dual-use export controls

Key documents