This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at

Plenary speech on Trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other treatment or punishment

On October 26, during the European Parliament’s plenary meeting, Marietje Schaake presented her report on ‘Trade in certain goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other treatment or punishment'. Please find Schaake's speech and the response by Commissioner Malmström (Trade) below. See also: MEP: Export torture and death penalty goods needs strong and flexible approach Plenary speech by Marietje Schaake Marietje Schaake, rapporteur - Mr President, the debate today on the tools and services that can be used for capital punishment reminds us once again that trade policy is an integral part of the EU’s foreign policy. It is vital that we continue to develop values-based trade policies, as is very much the theme of the new trade policy of the Commission. I would like to thank the shadow rapporteurs for the collegial cooperation during which we focussed on updates needed to close the loopholes in the current EU regime. The anti–torture regulation combines prohibitions of goods on the one hand with licensing requirements for trade in listed goods on the other hand. It governs a ban on trade in so–called single-use torture and execution items and related technical assistance under Annex 2. But it also looks at an authorisation system for multi-purpose items that could be misused for torture and executions: for example, lethal injections. We see this in Annex 3. The overhaul of the existing EU controls of trade in torture instruments has been long overdue. In this update we must ensure a correct mix of EU legislative, administrative, judicial and external measures. The absence of a multilateral export controls regime does complicate this task. Still, we seek coherence of the EU’s export controls, including military, dual use, firearms and torture goods lists, without subjecting items to duplicate controls and making things more complicated. The Commission proposes to strengthen the controls of torture goods to include certain medical substances and to broaden the scope to include brokering. I support this kind of approach of necessary and proportionate controls without creating unnecessary burdens for legitimate trade. In this regard it is also key that we seek a more level playing field in Europe. At the same time as we act now, our policies and systems should be future–proof and flexible, so as to be able to adjust to changing technologies or changing realities elsewhere in the world. Specific item lists can provide clarity for exporters and importers to make it easier for them to comply. We have also made sure that it is very clear and that there is no doubt about legitimate access to medicines and pharmaceuticals which, of course, for the EU is an important market, and it must not be hindered by measures to curb the abuse of lethal injection. While we observe that foreign trade transactions are becoming more and more complex, we have to look for an effective set of enforcement measures, and this should also include the marketing and financial services that do take place and are related to this industry. We have asked for reporting and exchange of information between Member States via a secure encrypted system, so that rejected licences and other notifications or important information can be shared and can help states coordinate. As the Commission can more flexibly adapt the regulations and the items that are at stake, we do ask, as a Parliament, to be duly informed and involved. Finally, we look to industry to take its own responsibility to make sure that the EU does not trade, broker, transfer or otherwise get involved with goods or services that are used for the death penalty or torture. I believe – and I think all of our colleagues believe – that in this text we put forward concrete proposals for improvement in this file, all with the goal to make sure that the EU acts as a values–based global player and that this specific, quite technical, aspect of trade is upgraded and implemented in a way that is both flexible and effective. Commissioner Malmström (Trade): response to the report Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission - Mr President, I want to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mrs Schaake, for the excellent work that she has done on this, of course with input from other colleagues as well. As was said, we will be discussing some very technical elements, but let us not forget that we are talking about highly politically‑sensitive issues such as ending the death penalty, torture and ill-treatment, which are key priorities for all the work of the European Union. It is in fact an anomaly that so many countries still have the death penalty and that so many thousands of people are still waiting in death row all over the world, but the fact is that it has actually decreased. One hundred and forty countries do not apply the death penalty today and 98 have legally abolished it, compared to 59 twenty years ago, so this is going in the right direction, but that does not mean that we should rest – there is so much to do. We have different tools at our disposal in foreign policy, but trade also can play a very important role and that is why this report is so important. Trade can be a leverage to promote, around the world, European values such as human rights, sustainable development, fair and ethical trade and the fight against corruption, and those values are the pillars of the newly proposed trade strategy by the Commission. The regulation we are talking about, Regulation (EC) No 1236/2005, takes account of this – the role of trade – to restrict foreign trade in goods that could be used for executions, torture or ill-treatment, and we welcome very much the effort done by the European Parliament to amend the regulation. We largely share the spirit and the approach taken by the Committee on International Trade (INTA), the rapporteur and Parliament, although some of the amendments in the report call for measures without precedent in export-control legislation and could be a bit difficult to implement in practice. We support several amendments, such as Amendment 6 extending the proposed definition of ‘broker’ to cover nationals from Member States not resident or established in the Union. This is acceptable in principle, but it could be difficult to enforce, so the inclusion of foreign subsidiaries of legal persons incorporated in the EU should of course not go beyond what is compatible with international law. Amendments 9 and 10 on the transport of transiting goods whose export and import is prohibited by the regulation are also acceptable for the Commission if Amendment 10 does not cover more than non-union goods. It is related to Amendment 15, and that can also be accepted; we just have to make sure that it is formulated in compatibility with WTO requirements. Amendment 21 referring to the transmission of information to human rights oversight bodies is also acceptable. Of course, here, companies requesting an export authorisation that submit information to competent authority have a legitimate interest in not giving certain data and making them public, so we need to make sure how the text is drafted here. Furthermore, we can accept Amendments 18 on best practices for technical assistance, 19 on guidelines and 26 on the report published by the Commission on the implementation, if you can agree that this is not an obligation for the Commission. We can also accept Amendment 2 adding human dignity and then several other more technical amendments that I will not go into now. I mentioned that some of the proposed measures are without precedent in export-control legislation. Last spring, Members approved here in Parliament Regulation 479 on common rules for exports, which confirmed the basic rule of trade policy: that exports are to be free unless trade restrictions are necessary to achieve an accepted objective, such as the protection of public morals. Torture, ill treatment and the death penalty are, of course, never acceptable, but we just make need to make sure that trade restrictions to promote respect for human rights meet the necessary trust. In this regard, while we fully understand the rationale of a view to propose an end-use or catch-all clause, we think it could lead to the introduction of restrictions going beyond what is necessary and preventing a level playing field for exporters. This could present a challenge to the uniformity of the Union’s trade policy, and for this reason the Commission had instead proposed the urgency procedure, which would help us to deal with most of the cases that could be addressed in a more proportionate manner. But we are willing to see if those objectives, which are basically the same, can be reconciled in a formula that we can agree upon. Regarding the amendment on the definition of brokering services, number 5, it would make the regulation cover a range of activities, financial services and insurance related to goods that are outside the Union, and that would be very difficult to monitor and control. But rather than amending the definition, we could identify which restrictions on which services need the necessity test and then use of specific drafting to regulate those activities. We recognise the usefulness of the Coordination Group and we share the objective behind that amendment. We just need to be very careful to make sure that that article is not at odds with the agreed arrangement for delegated powers in the treaty. We would need to find an appropriate formula to create a forum for consultations between Member States, stakeholders, civil society and the Commission. As you know, the EU works towards the abolition of the death penalty in all countries. The countries that are included in the proposal, in the authorisation of the annex, have ratified the second optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights without reservation, so they agreed to abolish the death penalty. When controlling exports to prevent EU involvement in executions in third countries, we should focus our efforts on countries that have not abolished it, and therefore we disagree with Amendments 33, 35 and 37 because there is nothing to show that these countries concerned would have applied the death penalty, despite the ratification of the protocol. Let me conclude – it has become rather technical – by expressing my conviction that this report, by the rapporteur and many of you, is a very good basis for further work to make the regulation into a more robust export‑control regime that promotes respect for fundamental rights without unduly restricting foreign rights. I express here the full commitment by the Commission and me, personally, to work with you and with the Council to achieve that objective and a good final product. Commissioner Malmström: response to the debate Cecilia Malmström, Member of the Commission - Mr President, it is good to see that there is such strong unity on these important issues. It sends a strong signal to the rest of the world, and shows that we are determined to use all possible tools that we have at our disposal – today we are talking about trade – to abolish the death penalty along with torture and ill‑treatment. Let me thank again the rapporteur and all the shadow rapporteurs and the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which has been involved as well, and reiterate the Commission’s determination to have an ambitious regulation in place to restrict foreign trade in goods that could be used for executions or ill‑treatment or torture. We will, as many of you said, make sure with this amendment that we close the loopholes and also, in response to some of your questions on the catch-all clause, we have an open position so let us see how we can find a solution to this. On the implementation and monitoring, I think that the coordination group – or whatever we call it in the end – can have a very important role there. Also, the Commission has, via delegated acts, the powers to regularly modify the Annex to make sure that it is kept up to date. We will also present next year a review of the export control system for dual use – many of you have referred to this, this evening, as well – in order to make sure that we have an even better regulation on items that can be misused in violation of human rights, which would be another very important milestone. I am sure that with such a strong agreement to really have a good regulation updated here, we can find a way to overcome the remaining difficulties and find a way to amend them in the right way so that we have a workable and efficient system that is proven for the future and equipped to ensure rapid reaction when a risk arises. This Commission will certainly play its part in this. Marietje Schaake: response to the debate Marietje Schaake, rapporteur - Mr President, I would like to thank the Commissioner and my colleagues. On a slightly lighter note, I thought it was a pleasure – and a bit of a relief – to hear that we can actually talk about trade and agree from one side of the House to the other side of the House, and even see that trade policies can advance values directly, so I note that with a smile. Commissioner, thank you for your very detailed reply to the text that we have worked on together in this House. I note many points of overlap – if not literally, then at least in spirit – and that is a reason for optimism. I think that it has been well established by everyone who spoke that we share the goal of ending the death penalty and torture, and this is one way to contribute to that. It is not as widely shared a goal in this House. Unfortunately, it is not entirely unanimously shared, but at least by a large majority. On the implementation: yes, of course measures must be feasible and even agile. That is our goal too, but I think we are being both ambitious and realistic, as my colleague Loones also said. It has been 10 years since this regulation has been updated, so we feel very strongly that what we do now has to be future‑proof and solid and should be able to last for quite a while, so what we do now we must do well and make it a robust mechanism that deals with all the loose ends. I also want to end by saying thank you to civil society and human rights organisations that have been very involved in helping us to push for these much‑needed reforms. I think this highlights the importance of civil society also for us here in the European Parliament.