The European Commission has launched a public consultation entitled ‘Unleashing the potential of Europe’s security industry’. The consultation has the clear aim of fostering support for continued EU R&D subsidies to the security industry, and extending those subsidies to ‘dual use’ (military-security) research.
According to yesterday’s Commission Press Release (14.3.2011):
The EU security industry faces a highly fragmented internal market and a weak industrial base. National regulatory frameworks and standards differ widely and the market for security products is highly diversified, ranging from cameras to complex scanner systems. Therefore, it is essential to develop a fast-track system for approval of priority technologies; to make substantial further progress on harmonisation, standardisation; to consider coordinated public procurement; and to accelerate R&D on security technologies including dual-use. To promote this industry the Commission has launched today a public consultation to invite all interested parties to share their views on the best policy measures to be taken to make Europe’s security industry a world leader.
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: “The security industry is an integral part of the proper functioning of our society. Therefore, the current fragmented market should be overcome. It weakens the competitiveness of Europe’s security industry and endangers its ability to provide technologies necessary to ensure the security of the European citizens. This needs to be changed.”
These assertions are at odds with research commissioned by the EU under the European Security Research Programme, which suggest that the security market is already worth between 60-100 billion Euros annually. According to the 178 page ‘Survey of the European security market‘ produced by the EUSECON project:
As we have seen, the security market in Europe cannot be considered fragmented by national borders, yet barriers exist that impede a stronger competition such as differences in national regulations and standards and the traditional preference of national suppliers in large public purchases… A wider market will create incentives for industrial concentration to achieve a European dimension, a desirable feature since it is also recognised that the number of companies operating in the sector is often too high… The increasing competition across EU Member States will lead to the concentration of sales in the hands of the largest and more efficient firms. Such transformation could involve market restructuring. While long-term benefits will be positive, the restructuring process may create short-term imbalances in terms of plant closures and job losses of the less efficient firms (page 163).
According to the Commission, the aim of the public consultation ‘is to provide the Commission with an overview of the perspectives of the relevant stakeholders, from public administration, to industry, NGO and citizens’. The consultation thus ‘focuses on three aspects’:
- Means to overcome the market fragmentation (i.e. certification and standardisation procedures).
- Reinforcing the security industrial base (i.e. access to international markets, synergies between civil and military technologies and liability related issues).
- Closer cooperation between manufacturers, system integrators, and service providers on one side and with clients on the other.
- The societal dimension of security - i.e. ensuring the privacy compliance of security technologies (data protection).
The fourth issue – ‘societal impacts’ – was clearly inserted into the consultation documents at a rather late stage, reflecting growing disquiet both inside and outside the EU institutions about the kind of technology R&D that is being funded under the European Security research Programme.
The public consultation runs from the 14th of March to the 13th of May 2011 on the “Your Voice in Europe” website. See also background document on ‘Public Consultation on the preparation of a new Communication on an Industrial Policy for the Security Industry’.
A broader consultation on the future of the entire EU Framework Research programme was launched in February. It runs until the 20th May 2011.