Jean-Pierre Audy MEP (a French Christian Democrat and member of the conservative PPE block) has drafted a report on the “mid-term review of the 7th Framework Programme for Research” for the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

The draft report proposes:

that an ambitious European research plan for technology and defence be adopted between the Union and the Member States and receive significant initial financing from FP7 and the European Defence Agency on the basis of Article 45(d) of the EU Treaty, with a view to enhancing the industrial and technological base of the defence sector while at the same time improving the efficiency of military public spending (paragraph. 14)

The report also suggests that:

industry’s participation rates do not appear any higher than in previous FPs, particular under the ‘Cooperation’ chapter (paragraph. 15)

This is patently not the case with the EU’s Security Research Programme (ESRP), which has thus far been dominated by large multinationals from the defence industry (see the Report commissioned by the European Parliament’s Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs’ policy department, published last October).

The new draft Committee Report signals a worrying potential shift in the position of the European Parliament, which has traditionally opposed the outright militarisation of the EU.

The report also goes much further than what the European Commission apparently envisages for the next EU Framework Research programme. That is: limited cooperation between the European Defence Agency and the ESRP, which is already taking place in FP7 (for example in respect to UAVs/drones). See further the Commission’s “Background Paper” to the public consultation on security research (p.4). In contrast, the draft Audy report is much more closely aligned with the repeated demands of European defence industry lobbyists.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy is scheduled to adopt the report at “first reading” on 12 April 2011 (see EP procedure file).

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.

A study commissioned by the European Parliament’s ‘Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs’ policy department has produced a damning indictment of the European Security Research Programme (ESRP), reiterating and confirming many of the findings in Statewatch and TNI’s earlier Neoconopticon report.

The key findings of the European Parliament study are:
  • With regard to the “public-private dialogue”: EU security research and development activities have been mainly driven by a concern to bring together representatives from the ministries of Defence and Interior of the Member States and Associate countries, and representatives of major companies from the defence and security industries. In the process, representatives from civil society and parliamentarians, as well as bodies and organisations in charge of civil liberties and fundamental freedoms, including data protection authorities and fundamental rights bodies, have been largely sidestepped. The outcome of this process is a dialogue that is limited in its scope, addressing security research through the concerns of security agencies and services and the industry, without taking into account the requirements flowing from the EU’s internal area of freedom.
  • With regard to security research undertaken in the framework of FP7-Security theme: an overview of current security research projects sponsored through FP7 show an unequal distribution of funding, which is concentrated on a small number of participating countries and a small number of organisations, mostly major defence and security companies and applied research institutions. In addition, a large proportion of these projects is dedicated to developing technologies of surveillance, to the detriment of a broader reflection on the impact of such technologies for citizens and persons concerned with the EU’s security policies.
  • With regard to future developments in the field of security research in the EU: plans for the future development of EU-level security research, including the European Research and Innovation Agenda recently proposed by ESRIF, do not fundamentally challenge the abovementioned trends. While these proposals indicate a growing awareness for questions of fundamental freedoms and rights, they remain overly framed by the concerns of the defence and security industry and national and European security agencies and services.

The study also contains updated information about the extent of arms industry involvement in FP7 (see pages 23-24 of the report, link below), confirming that “it is mostly large defence companies, the very same who have participated in the definition of EU-sponsored security research which are the main beneficiaries of FP7-ST funds”. The report analysed 91 FP7 projects, worth a total of €443,2 million, and found that “companies such as the Thales group are involved in roughly one third of the projects (27), representing more than half the FP7-ST (57%) in terms of projects’ total worth (€ 253.8 million)”.

The study recommends that a comprehensive evaluation of EU-funded security research and development to date should be conducted before any decision on future funding for security research in FP8 is taken. Four options for such a review are set out:

i) an accounts and budgetary evaluation through the European Court of Auditors;

ii) a data-protection and privacy evaluation conducted by the EDPS and/or the Art.29 Working Party;

iii) a fundamental rights and freedoms assessment conducted by the EU’s Fundamental Rights agency;

iv) a full-spectrum evaluation conducted under the auspices of the European Parliament’s STOA unit.

Given the fundamental conflict of interests at the heart of the security research programme (in which multinational defence corporations have been able to set the research agenda and secure the lion’s share of the available funding), a review by the Court of Auditors would be most welcome. Given the limited mandates of the EDPS and FRA, however, any further review should only be conducted in the much broader STOA framework.

The study also recommends a transfer of competence for EU security research from DG Enterprise to DG Research and the “earmarking [of] a certain amount of future funds to be dedicated to security research for projects in the field of fundamental freedoms and rights (10-15%)”.

Although transferring the ESRP to DG Research would be a most welcome initiative, it seems implausible given that one of the programme’s central objectives is “industrial competitiveness” – in other words developing a globally competitive European Homeland Security industry. The second recommendation, increased funding for rights and freedoms-based research, is much more likely to happen. The question we should be asking, however, is whether this can somehow ‘offset’ or ‘human-rights proof’ the kind of security envisaged by the security-industrial complex.

What is needed more than anything in FP8 is a fundamental realignment of priorities for the entire security research programme. It is time that MEPs paid due regard to the growing body of evidence before them.

The European Parliament study, “Review of security measures in the Research Framework Programme”, is available here.

Article by Dave Cronin for IPS, quoting Ben Hayes of Statewatch, reproduced in full.

Arms traders are seeking to convince the European Union that publicly-funded scientific research grants should help develop weapons for future wars.

In a series of secret discussions, Brussels officials and representatives of the arms industry are examining if the EU’s multi-billion euro “framework programme” for research can be used for projects of a military nature.

Since the Sep. 11 attacks in Washington and New York, senior policy-makers in the European Commission, the EU’s executive wing, have been eager to ensure a greater involvement of arms manufacturers in the programme. Yet because of the reluctance of some EU governments to give the Commission a greater say in military matters, the scope of “security research” has so far been limited to projects that, according to EU officials, can be categorised as “civilian” and “non-lethal”.

About 1.4 billion euros (1.85 billion dollars) have been allocated to the “security” theme of the current framework programme, which runs from 2007 to 2013 and has an overall budget of 53 billion euros. With planning already under way for the next phase of the programme – from 2014 to 2020 – the arms industry is pushing for projects of a more explicit military nature to be funded.

Many arms industry lobbyists view the research programme as an important source of money at a time when military expenditure is being reduced throughout Europe. While the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) advocates that its members should devote at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product to the military, France, Greece and Britain are the only EU countries that have met that target.

The secret talks on how science grants may aid the military are being organised by a network called SANDERA (Security and Defence policies in the European Research Area).

Burkhard Theile, a German arms industry lobbyist who is joning the talks, said he wishes to see EU research grants being used for developing new pilotless drones (also known as unmanned air vehicles, UAVs). Such weapons were used extensively by Israel to kill and injure civilians in Gaza during 2008 and 2009. They are also being used by the U.S. in carrying out extrajudicial executions – which frequently result in civilian deaths – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

“UAVs have both civilian and military uses and they should be funded by the Union,” Theile told IPS. “They can equally be used for border patrol or for missions like the one we have in Afghanistan.” Formerly a vice-president of Rheinmetall, a maker of tanks and warplanes, Theile now runs his own consulting firm for the arms trade.

Andrew James, a lecturer in Manchester Business School and coordinator of Sandera, acknowledged that giving the European Commission a greater say in scientific research may encounter resistance from EU governments. He said: “A number of powerful and influential stakeholders in Brussels and beyond would like to see defence in some form take funding more broadly than it does at the moment, not least because defence spending among (EU) member states is obviously declining. This is politically controversial. Not all member states would be comfortable to see the Commission getting involved in defence research.”

Rather than being financed as a “security” project, the work of Sandera is covered by the section of the EU’s research programme reserved for social science and humanities.

Academics from the Free University in Berlin have expressed concern that the research programme is focusing less on issues of a genuinely social nature. A paper drawn up by Tanja Boerzel, a professor at the university, laments how EU-financed social science projects are often driven by the interests of private companies. Although about half of all academic staff at leading European universities work in social sciences, only 2 percent of the EU’s research programme is allocated to this field, the paper says.

Ben Hayes, a campaigner with the civil liberties organisation Statewatch, argued that the research programme should concentrate more on social than on military issues. “There is a huge conflict of interest in allowing the military and security lobby to set the research agenda, to be able to define the priorities and then to apply for the funding on offer,” he said. “They are developing their wares with taxpayers’ money and then selling them back to the state. This is a hugely misdirected allocation of taxpayers’ money and scarce resources.”

Mark English, the European Commission’s spokesman on science, said that the EU executive expects to increase the amount of grants given to social research from 84 million euros next year to almost 111 million euros in 2013. He also denied that there are discussions taking place about using EU grants for military purposes.

But a study published in October by the European Parliament, the EU’s only directly elected institution, concluded that the arms industry is already adept at drawing down funds from the Union’s budget. The report said that it is “mostly large defence companies, the very same who have participated in the definition of EU-sponsored security research which are the main beneficiaries.” The leading recipients of these grants to date include Verint, an Israeli maker of surveillance equipment, and the German and French firms Fraunhofer and Thales.

Although Israel is not formally a member of the European Union, it has been a participant in the EU’s science activities since the 1990s. A recent paper by the Quaker Council on European Affairs noted that Israel “appears to be standing out” in its ability to receive funding earmarked for security research. The Quakers expressed concern about how companies that have supplied weapons used against Palestinians and provided services to illegal settlements in the West Bank are among the recipients of EU research grants. The report said: “Israeli industries that profit from the occupation in Palestine should not be eligible to apply for EU funding.”

The original text of this article can be found here.

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