The European Commission has revealed plans on Tuesday to inaugurate collective risk evaluations in conjunction with member states across four technology sectors, a step that could promulgate restrictive action such as export controls or developmental assistance for these technologies by spring 2024. This initiative is geared towards mitigating technology leakage and bolstering security in the area of advanced semiconductors, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, and biotechnologies.
Owing to heightened dependency during the Covid-19 pandemic and continuing strife in Ukraine, Europeans have inevitably paid the price, stated Commissioner Věra Jourová while addressing a press conference in Strasbourg. The Commission guided its selection of these four technologies based on their transformative potential, risk of civil and military convergence, and potential misuse concerning human rights violations.
Examining Potential Measures
As per the Commission’s guidelines, these collective risk investigations will be conducted in collaboration between the Commission and member states and are expected to culminate by the year’s end. The outcomes of these assessments will then form the basis for any measures that the EU might adopt to lessen the possibility of technology leakage.
Notwithstanding, a European Commission official clarified in an interview that it is premature to predict the nature of measures that will be employed, if any. Preserving the principles of proportionality, the Commission underlined that the list of the four selected technologies must not be seen as the technologies for which EU will establish control measures. Instead, the list could prompt measures of a supportive nature or foster deeper collaboration with partner countries.
A Step Towards De-risking and Greater Autonomy
This move aligns with the EU’s mission to “de-risk” its trade partnerships rather than “de-coupling” them. As Agathe Demarais, a Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), highlighted, the EU is proactively forging a distinctive European de-risking strategy, rather than simply mimicking the United States.
Six additional technologies including Advanced Connectivity, Navigation and Digital Technologies, Advanced Sensing Technologies, Space and Propulsion Technologies, Energy Technologies, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Advanced Materials, Manufacturing and Recycling Technologies, have also been proposed by the EU Commission for further risk assessment discussions with the member states. The list of a total of ten technology sectors has been termed as “strategic technologies for the strategic autonomy and the security of the Union”, by Commissioner Thierry Breton.
However, unanimous consensus on the matter of de-risking could prove to be a challenging endeavour due to geopolitical concerns and diverging interests among member states. ECFR’s Demarais observes that operationalizing a genuine economic security strategy still remains elusive for the EU, and the discourse of de-risking has further acquainted divisions among EU member states.