According to the leaked documents by the Netzpolitik.org portal in cooperation with human rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders Germany, several countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Ireland and Finland, opposed the amendments, arguing that unilateral measures on the bloc's part would hurt the European Union's exports of dual-use goods that could account for up to 24 percent of all EU exports.
"Measures to prevent misuse must be proportionate, balanced and predictable. Dual-use products make up 5-24 % of EUs total exports depending on the calculation model and supports at least 1 million jobs… Amendments to the Regulation that will create legal uncertainties and introducing unilateral measures deviating from the international control regimes… could seriously undermine the competitiveness of EU-based industry," a report submitted on behalf of the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom said as quoted by the portal.
The documents also showed that France and Germany were among the countries that opposed the legislation as well, saying that there was "no need" for additional targeted catch-all controls, which, according to the European Commission, should allow the bloc to control the exports of effectively all cyber surveillance technologies if there was proof that it could be misused.
These countries' position has been criticized by a number of prominent watchdogs, which slammed the EU members for their readiness to sacrifice the protection of human rights for the sake of maintaining their business cooperation.
"These leaks reveal that while the EU talks the talk on human rights in public, behind the scenes, member states are secretly ready to trade in their obligations to protect human rights defenders for the sake of business interests. They would give businesses free rein to sell to abusive governments technologies which can tap into the communications and whereabouts of those who speak up against them," Senior Executive Officer at Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office Nele Meyer was quoted as saying by the watchdog's official website.
Lucie Krahulcova, policy analyst at human rights organization Access Now, in turn, said that the European Union did not consider the protection of people's privacy and the freedom of expression as one of the priorities of its policy.
"The current EU system fails to hold European governments and companies to account. It is devastating to see that protecting the privacy of individuals and safeguarding freedom of expression around the globe are not on the list of priorities of the Council of the EU," Krahulcova said as quoted by the website.
In addition, the head of the journalism desk at the Reporters Without Borders, Elodie Vialle, said that the use of surveillance technologies by repressive countries forced journalists in these countries to censor their own work for the sake of safety.
"The willingness of some countries to go on with business as usual by supplying despotic regimes with tools to abuse human rights is shocking. Jamal Khashoggi’s death has highlighted the level of pressure and surveillance endured by journalists. The EU must end the sale of tools which are used to spy on, harass and arrest journalists. These technologies threaten the safety of journalists and their sources and thereby force them into self-censorship," Vialle, was quoted as saying by the website.
In 2016, the European Commission proposed introducing amendments to its dual-use regulation, which is used to control the supplies of goods, including programs and technologies used for cyber surveillance for both military and civilian purposes, to countries with a poor human rights record. In January, the European Parliament voted to introduce changes to the text proposed by the commission.