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EU Plans to Roll Out E-Licensing Regime for Dual-Use Exports by 2021

The European Union plans to finish rolling out its electronic licensing regime for dual-use exports by 2021, said Gabriela Stoica, a lead analyst of digital trade policy at the European Commission. The regime is being tested by four member states -- Latvia, Italy, Romania and Greece -- and the commission plans to add Belgium as a pilot tester soon, Stoica said. In the program’s next step, the commission plans to launch an e-licensing platform for steel and aluminum imports under the EU’s prior surveillance licensing regime. Stoica said those e-licenses will be “fully live with all member states” by Dec. 31.

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“We’ve proven our platform to be stable, flexible and to do the job that member states expect it to do,” Stoica said, speaking during a Dec. 13 export control conference hosted by the commission in Brussels. “In 2021 we will be live, and the rollout will be done with.”

The e-licensing platform will only support dual-use licenses, Stoica said, but there are plans to eventually add other “domains,” including licenses related to military use, civilian firearms and drug precursors. “At the moment these are just initial discussions and our development is concentrated on the dual-use domain,” she said. “But there is no technical impediment as to why we shouldn't be able to take on other domains.”

And while the initiative aims to simplify dual-use license applications through a website portal, some aspects of member states’ licensing regimes can’t be “100 percent paperless,” Stoica said. Some documents, such as end-user certificates, have to be provided in their original physical form. “Still, any progress in digitizing this process is a great step forward and is of great value to” exporters, she said.

The commission aims to have an e-licensing portal for certain steel and aluminum imports operational before 2020. Stoica said “half of the member states are already using it, and it is being tested with the other half,” which she said is going smoothly. The steel import licensing regime was a “very good opportunity” to show that the portal was capable of handling “thousands” of daily transactions,” she said.

In an upcoming step, the commission plans to integrate the e-licensing regime with every customs agency in the EU, Stoica said, adding that the process is about 90 percent finished. The commission is collaborating with EU customs agencies through CERTEX -- or Certificate Exchange -- a “very large project” that allows the EU to communicate with every customs office “so we don’t have to speak the customs language in 28 member states,” Stoica said. “We just have to speak with one system and that system spreads information to all customs offices in Europe.” The commission also hopes to use this system to integrate “national-level” export licenses into the EU e-licensing regime. “But these are very large projects and we need to take them step by step, so we only started with the EU licenses,” she said.

One area that will significantly simplify member states’ compliance with EU export controls is the multilingual aspect of the portal, Stoica said, allowing exporters to apply for licenses in “the languages that are official in the country where [they are] registering.” This involved a “very complex level of multilingual support” and was introduced alongside a seamless integration with member states’ licensing authorities, Stoica said. Instead of forcing exporters in each EU country to apply for licenses on a foreign website, the platform will be integrated into each member state's “already existing system,” Stoica said. “We designed our system to make it look and feel like it is a portal developed in that country. It does not stand out from the landscape.”