Opinion & Analysis

Balancing openness, economic security and national security

The European Union and its Member States are hard-pressed to define their strategic interests and devise appropriate measures to uphold technological sovereignty in the field of critical technologies. Export controls have become an instrument for this purpose.

Following new controls in 2023 on semiconductor manufacturing equipment, the expectations are that curbs on quantum, artificial intelligence and biotechnologies will follow. The challenge originates from China’s rapid rise to technological prowess and the stalemate in multilateral export regimes, as well as unprecedented unilateral action by the United States since 2018.

In order to balance openness and security, the Netherlands needs to act, ideally aligned with the EU and other Member States. The following practical steps emerge from this report’s analysis:

  • greater intra-EU harmonisation on export controls;
  • investing significantly in capacity-building;
  • identifying and own choke points in the developing supply chains;
  • forming EU coalitions of technology holders lead the way to new EU-wide export controls;
  • promoting EU-wide academic and industry cooperation to forge a sense of collective responsibility; and
  • leveraging existing digital partnerships to engage in closer collaboration with trusted countries like Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and India in the field of information-sharing, joint risk assessments and common regulatory frameworks.

The findings of this report derive from multiple interviews and two scenario workshops with Dutch and international experts in the field of export controls and quantum technologies, a key subset of critical technologies.

About the Authors:

Maaike Okano-Heijmans is a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute, where she leads the ‘Geopolitics of Technology and Digitalisation’ programme.

Alexandre F. Gomes is a Research Fellow at Clingendael’s EU & Global Affairs Unit. His interest and research revolve around the intersection and mutual influence between (geo)politics and technology. 

Brigitte Dekker is a Research Associate at the Clingendael Institute and is currently pursuing a PhD on governance in the digital age at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. As researcher, Brigitte focuses on digitalisation, Big Tech regulation, digital connectivity and the nexus between trade, technology and geopolitics primarily in Europe-Asia context.

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