Statewatch article: RefNo# 33894
EU: Commission proposes military research programme
Statewatch News Online, August 2014
The European Commission is to "prepare the ground" for an EU military research programme by launching a 'Preparatory Action' that will "illustrate the value added of an EU contribution in new research" and complement research being undertaken under the Horizon 2020 programme.

In a Communication published at the end of June, the Commission suggested that the details of a Preparatory Action (PA) on military research may be established by "an independent advisory body made up of top level decision-makers and experts" - what it refers to as a 'Group of Personalities'. [1]

The June Communication - an 'Implementation Roadmap' - is a follow-up to a paper published in July last year, 'Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector'. [2]

The proposal to launch a PA already has approval at the highest level, with the European Council backing the idea in its conclusions of December 2013. [3]

The aim is to "prepare the ground for a possible CSDP-related [Common Security and Defence Policy] research theme which could be funded under the next multi-annual financial framework," which will run from 2021 onwards.

"While this cannot substitute for national investment in defence R&D [research and development]," says the Communication, "it should promote synergies with national research efforts and encourage industrial cooperation."

This will come on top of existing efforts by the EU to try and maximise "civil-military synergies" in research under the Horizon 2020 programme, despite an explicit provision in the Horizon 2020 legislation that projects "shall have an exclusive focus on civil applications." [4]

This emphasis on "dual-use" technologies was made clear by Commission officials as they launched the Horizon 2020 security research programme at Milipol 2013, an event described by Privacy International researcher Edin Omanovic as "one of the world's foremost trade shows for law enforcement agencies showcasing the latest tools in state security and internal repression." [5]

Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), Claude-France Arnold, told the audience that the lines between security and defence are "increasingly blurred but the challenges nonetheless is to find the right synergies." [6] A draft version of a speech given by Philippe Brunet, head of the Commission Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry, said the EU required:

"[N]ovel technologies and capabilities, but also a new approach on security matters in general. It has to be clear to all of us that these ambitious goals can only be achieved if the civilian and military worlds work together hand in hand. Long lasting peace building can only be achieved if we make full use of all our capacities." [7]

A presentation on the Commission's proposed Preparatory Action, produced by the French Ministry of Defence, quotes a European Defence Agency (EDA) document:

"EDA and the Commission will address the modalities of the CSDP-related preparatory action (functioning, timelines, content), as well as the complementarity with EDA activities, in close consultation with the Member States." [8]

The EDA quote suggests that the PA could begin in 2016, but a Commission official told Statewatch that "we know we cannot start before 2018." Under EU rules the longest the PA can last is three years, and it needs to be timed so that it ends as the next budgeting period ("Multiannual Financial Framework", in the EU terminology) begins.

While the French Defence Ministry document suggests that it will have a budget in the region of €50 million to €100 million, the Commission official Statewatch spoke with said the budget will be "in the area of €50 million… not more." For the time being, the Commission is looking at "preparatory actions to the preparatory action".

A new "Group of Dr Strangeloves"?

There are clear similarities between these proposals and the development of the EU's security research programme. That also began with the Commission convening a Group of Personalities (GoP), referred to at the time as a "Group of Dr Strangeloves" by Statewatch Editor, Tony Bunyan. [9]

According to the Commission, the security research programme funds projects that find ways to "protect our citizens, society and economy as well as our infrastructures and services, our prosperity, political stability and wellbeing," [10] primarily through the development of new technologies. It is also supposed to foster the development of a European 'homeland security' industry, an area in which many traditionally arms-producing companies have an interest.

The security research programme has its origins in a February 2004 Commission Communication. This document reproduced recommendations from a report by the GoP and announced that the Commission "had already established" - prior to the publication of the report - "a 65 million euro budget line for 'Preparatory Action for Security Research' (2004-06)". [11]

Security research was then formally integrated into the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (2007-13), from which it received €1.4 billion; it now has a budget of €1.8 billion from the Horizon 2020 programme (2014-2020). It is formally known as "the Secure Societies Challenge" and has been described by Commission official Philippe Brunet as "an integral part of the European research community". [12]

There are also parallels with the Commission's plans to ease drones into domestic airspace over the next 15 years. In October 2013, on the Commission's whim, a "politically-driven" budget of €70 million was added to legislation aimed at modernising Europe's air traffic management systems. The money is to be used to ensure that the integration of drones into civil airspace is taken into account. [13]

Corporate interests

The Commission's June paper proposes setting up a GoP "made up of top-level decision makers and experts… of around 20 high level representatives from Member States, the European Parliament, the industry and academia." The precise balance of the group remains to be seen.

The security research programme has been heavily criticised for being dominated by industry.

Recent research for the European Parliament argued that the security research programme "puts research at the service of industry rather than society," [14] and the Statewatch/Transnational Institute report 'Neoconopticon' argued that the design of the programme was "outsourced to the very corporations [with] the most to gain from its implementation." [15]

The Secure Societies Advisory Group, which provides advice to the Commission on the design of the current Secure Societies work programme, is heavily dominated by corporate interests. Alongside lobby groups AeroSpace and Defence (ASD), the European Organisation for Security and the Eurotech Security Research Group, many of the individual participants are closely linked to industry.

A list of the participants at an EU 'High Level Conference on the Future of the European defence sector', held in Brussels in March this year, gives an indication of the organisations and individuals interested in the Commission's plans for the military and security industries. [16]

Other proposals

The Commission is also planning a whole host of other initiatives.

By the end of this year representatives of government and industry will find ways to increase arms exports through a "forum" that will examine "how to support the European defence industry on third markets".

In the first half of 2015 the Commission will publish an assessment of options for arms exports identified in an April Communication, [17] which will be "supported by an external study and include a targeted public consultation."

In the search for civil-military "synergies", the Commission is to publish guidance for regional authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on how to use European Structural and Investment Funds - the €140 billion European Regional Development fund and the €74 billion European Social Fund - to support dual-use projects.

Under the banner of "[making] use of EU instruments originally conceived for civil industries", there will be a push to encourage the use of "Sector Skills Alliances" and "Knowledge Alliances" through a:

"[C]ommunication campaign on EU funding of skill-related initiatives… in co-operation with the EDA and relevant bodies including the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of European (ASD) and the European trade union IndustriAll."

The Communication also says that:

"[T]he Commission will undertake, with the High Representative [Catherine Ashton] and EDA, a joint assessment of dual-use capability needs for EU security and defence policies…"

The focus will be on topics highlighted by the December 2013 European Council - drones, satellite communications and cyber-security.

The Commission will also offer advice to the arms industry on energy efficiency and renewable energy sources; putting together a roadmap on "a comprehensive EU-wide Security of Supply regime"; and an analysis of "raw materials that are critical for the defence sector".

Further reading

  • 'Police forces get ready for multi-billion euro policing and security funds', Statewatch News Online, June 2014
  • 'EU seeks more prominent international role for European para-military police force', Statewatch News Online, July 2014
  • Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer, 'Eurodrones, Inc.', Statewatch/Transnational Institute, February 2014
  • 'New €77 billion research fund launches; €1.6 billion for security research', Statewatch News Online, December 2013


    [1] European Commission, 'Implementation Roadmap for Communication COM (2013) 542', COM(2014) 387 final, 24 June 2014
    [2] European Commission, 'Towards a more competitive and efficient defence and security sector', COM(2013) 542 final, 24 July 2013
    [3] European Council, 'Common security and defence policy', 20 December 2013
    [4] Article 19, Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon 2020, 22 November 2013
    [5] Edin Omanovic, 'Watching the Watchers at Milipol 2013', Privacy International, 21 November 2013
    [6] European Commission, 'EC kicks off the next Security Research programme', undated
    [7] Draft version of speech given by Philippe Brunet at Milipol 2013, 20 November 2013
    [8] Ministère de la Défense, 'Action préparatoire de la Commission européenne pour soutenir la recherche liée à la PSDC', March 2014
    [9] 'Security research programme to look at creating "smart" biometric documents which will "locate, identify and follow the movement of persons" through "automatic chips with positioning"', Statewatch News Online, February 2004
    [10] European Commission, 'Secure societies - Protecting freedom and secuirty of Europe and its citizens', undated
    [11] Ben Hayes, 'Arming Big Brother', Transnational Institute, 2006
    [12] Draft version of speech given by Philippe Brunet at Milipol 2013, 20 November 2013
    [13] Ben Hayes, Chris Jones and Eric Töpfer, 'Eurodrones, Inc.',Statewatch/Transnational Institute, February 2014, p.25
    [14] Dider Bigo et. al., 'Review of Security Measures in the 7th Research Framework Programme FP7 2007-2013', European Parliament, April 2014, p.35
    [15] Ben Hayes, 'Neoconopticon', Statewatch/Transnational Institute, 2009, p.5
    [16] European Commission, 'High level conference on the European defence sector - speakers and participants', 4 March 2014
    [17] European Commission, 'The Review of export control policy: ensuring security and competitiveness in a changing world', COM(2014) 244 final, 24 April 2014

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